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France Aid Mission for Rebel Hostage Betancourt Arrives in Colombia


France has sent a humanitarian mission to Colombia, in an effort to help ailing French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who has been held hostage by leftist rebels for the past six years.

The aid mission arrived in Colombia Thursday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - or FARC, to release Betancourt, saying her release would open up the possibility of peace in Colombia. Mr. Sarkozy's office said Spain and Switzerland are also involved in the mission.

Betancourt is believed to be ill with hepatitis B and a skin condition caused by insect bites. Her son, Lorenzo Delloye, told reporters in Paris that his mother faces death if she is not freed soon.

The FARC seized Betancourt in February 2002 while campaigning for Colombia's presidency.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the mission team to Colombia would include a doctor and special envoys.

President Sarkozy made a televised appeal Tuesday for the release of Betancourt, saying she is in danger of dying.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says once the military knows the coordinates of any meeting between the mission and the rebels, he will suspend its operations in the area.

The FARC is holding at least 700 hostages, including three Americans, in secret jungle camps for ransom or political leverage.

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