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Colombian Rebels Seek Prisoner Swap with Government


Colombia's main leftist rebel group says it is willing to exchange nearly two dozen of the hostages it holds for hundreds of rebels imprisoned by the government.

The overture by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) comes just days after the group released six hostages it had been holding for several years. A statement released Monday by FARC says it hopes the release of the six prisoners will "open the way" for an agreement it says Bogota has previously rejected.

A separate message by FARC leader Alfonso Cano says any prisoner swap must include two rebels serving prison terms in the United States.

The messages did not include a previous demand for President Alvaro Uribe to create a demilitarized zone in southern Colombia that will serve as a conduit for the hostage swaps. Mr. Uribe has rejected that demand.

In a separate development, authorities say FARC rebels killed six soldiers in an attack in southern Colombia Monday.

The FARC has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. The rebel group has been designated a terrorist organization by Colombia, the United States and the European Union.

Last July, Colombian soldiers posing as members of a humanitarian group freed 15 prominent hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

The six hostages released last week include former lawmaker Sigifredo Lopez and the former governor of Meta, Alan Jara. Jara was kidnapped in 2001 while traveling in a U.N. vehicle.

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

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