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French FM to Go to Colombia in Effort to Free Hostage


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is expected to soon travel to Colombia in a renewed effort to gain the release of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

Kouchner said Wednesday France will not abandon efforts to free Betancourt.

She has been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for more than six years. The group refused to allow a French medical team to meet with her this week.

Kouchner said Tuesday the rebels' refusal was a serious political error, as well as a humanitarian tragedy. He said France is withdrawing the team.

FARC said Tuesday the French mission was not appropriate and called on the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to authorize a demilitarized zone for talks to swap imprisoned rebels for hostages. The president rejected that request.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made Betancourt's release a foreign policy priority. She was kidnapped in February 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency. Concerns about Betancourt's health grew following the release of a video in which she appeared gaunt and depressed.

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

The United States, European Union and Colombia have designated the FARC as a terrorist organization.

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

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