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Colombian Hostage Release Delayed Indefinitely


Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe Monday criticized leftist rebels for delaying the planned handover of three hostages held for more than five years. International observers, who were in Colombia to oversee the release, left late in the day, as rebel leaders said they could not complete the handover for now. VOA's Brian Wagner reports from Miami.

President Uribe traveled to the central city of Villavicencio to meet with international delegates awaiting instructions from rebel leaders about the planned handover. Venezuelan officials in charge of the operation say they have yet to receive word from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, about a location to find the three hostages.

Mr. Uribe said the leftist rebels have a history of breaking promises they have made during the decades-long conflict in Colombia.

Mr. Uribe said Colombia's government has many reasons to distrust the FARC, and he wanted to express those concerns to international observers of the release. He also said he assured the recovery team that Colombia's government has fulfilled all the necessary guarantees to ensure the mission's success.

He said Venezuelan officials received a message from FARC leaders, claiming that bad weather and Colombian military teams in the area were interfering with plans for the hostage handover.

Mr. Uribe said FARC leaders are lying, because he says weather has been very clear in rebel-held areas, and there have been no military operations over the past two weeks.

Earlier, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro traveled to Colombia, where he asked observers from eight countries to have patience with the operation. He said it could be a few more days before rebels can relay the coordinates for Venezuelan helicopters to pick up the hostages.

The three hostages are former Colombian Congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, Clara Rojas - an aide to former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt - and Rojas's son, who was born in captivity. FARC rebels are holding more than 40 high-profile hostages, including Betancourt and three American defense contractors.

FARC officials agreed to hand over the three hostages to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or his representatives, earlier this month. The last time any high-profile hostages were released was before 2002, when President Uribe took office vowing to crack down on FARC rebels.

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