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France to Launch Bid to Free FARC Hostages


The Foreign Ministry of France has announced a new initiative to free French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages held by Colombian rebels.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is expected travel to Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela next week to seek a way to free the hostages.

France has expressed concern that Betancourt may be gravely ill. She was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2002 while she was campaigning for Colombia's presidency.

The French Foreign Ministry said Kouchner is scheduled to meet the presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela during his trip.

Kouchner plans to talk with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Monday in Bogota. On Tuesday, he meets Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, and on Wednesday, he sees President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a humanitarian mission to Colombia after reports that Betancourt was gravely ill.

FARC Leaders denied access to Betancourt, who is one of hundreds of rebel hostages.

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

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