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Colombian Rebel Group Says No Hostage Release Without Swap Deal


A French mission to provide medical help for French - Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt remains stalled, as officials wait for FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels to grant them access.

The French medical team arrived in Colombia Thursday in an effort to treat Betancourt, who is believed to be gravely ill with hepatitis B and a tropical skin disease. She has been in captivity in the jungle for more than six years.

The FARC has refused to release Betancourt or any other captives until a deal is struck to free guerrillas held in Colombian prisons.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told Associated Press television that President Nicolas Sarkozy is ready to travel to Colombia with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to help win Betancourt's freedom.

President Sarkozy has made her release a foreign policy priority for his government.

The government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has said it will do everything it can to help gain access to Betancourt.

Betancourt is one of at least 700 hostages being held by the FARC in secret jungle camps in Colombia. Three Americans are among them.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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