Colombia's second-largest rebel group has accepted an offer from neighboring Venezuela to facilitate peace talks between the guerrillas and the Colombian government.
The National Liberation Army, the ELN, said in a statement dated September 16 but released Friday, that it accepts the offer from Venezuela's government and people. There was no immediate comment from officials in Bogota, but the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has shown an interest in opening talks with the ELN.
Earlier this month, Colombia agreed to temporarily release jailed ELN rebel leader Francisco Galan to allow him to negotiate with civil society leaders about launching talks with the Uribe government.
The ELN and a larger rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, are mired in a long-running civil war that also involves rightist paramilitaries and the government. The conflict leaves thousands of people dead each year.