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Colombia Proposes to Meet Rebels to Discuss Hostages

Colombia is awaiting a response to its offer to hold talks with the country's main leftist rebel group to discuss a possible exchange of jailed rebels for hostages.

Government Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo proposed Thursday to hold talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, near the western village of Pradera. He said the military would ensure safe passage for any FARC negotiators traveling to the talks.

FARC is holding dozens of hostages -- including politicians, military personnel and three U.S. defense contractors -- that it wants to exchange for 500 imprisoned rebels.

The rebels have repeatedly ruled out talks regarding the hostages unless Bogota grants them a sizable demilitarized zone, a request President Alvaro Uribe has rejected.

For more than 40 years, Colombia has been mired in a conflict involving the 13,000 strong FARC and a smaller rebel group, rightist paramilitaries and the government. The conflict leaves several thousand people dead each year.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and AP.