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French Senators Give Standing Ovation to Betancourt


French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt has received a warm welcome from French lawmakers, nearly one week after she was rescued after six years of captivity in the Colombian jungle.

Betancourt received tributes and a standing ovation Tuesday as she visited the French Senate in Paris. The French government took an interest in Betancourt's case while Colombian FARC rebels were holding her hostage and President Nicolas Sarkozy made her release a priority.

Betancourt is due to address France's National Assembly on Wednesday. Next week, President Sarkozy will award her the Legion of Honor, France's highest distinction, on the Bastille Day national holiday.

On Monday, Betancourt called for a softer tone in dealing with her former captors. In an interview with Radio France International, Betancourt called for an end to, in her words, "radical, extremist vocabulary of hate and strong words that wound the human being."

Betancourt and 14 others, including three American defense contractors, were freed last week following a daring rescue by the Colombian military. Their former captors are believed to be holding more than 700 hostages in Colombian jungle camps for ransom or political leverage.

The Colombian government has said it is looking into opening direct contact with the FARC in an effort to win the hostages release.

Separately, the New York Times reports in Tuesday's edition that the families of the remaining hostages are concerned about their safety following last week's rescue. The paper says the relatives have formed a group, Asfamipaz, that meets weekly for a vigil to draw attention to the plight of their loved ones.

One of the Americans rescued with Betancourt Monday denounced the FARC as terrorists. Marc Gonsalves also said the guerrillas are punishing other hostages because of last week's rescue by the Colombian military.

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