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International Community Praises Rescue of 15 Hostages in Colombia

The international community has welcomed the rescue of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three American defense contractors and 11 other hostages after years of captivity in the Colombian jungle.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Wednesday saying those and many other hostages still held captive in Colombia have endured years of hardship. He called on leftist FARC guerrillas to "immediately and unconditionally" free the remaining hostages.

U.S. President George Bush congratulated his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, in a phone conversation following Wednesday's rescue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke with President Uribe as well. He said Betancourt is in good health. France made her release a priority.

Spain, Brazil and the Vatican also praised Wednesday's operation by the Colombian military. There was no immediate response from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who played a role in the release of six other hostages earlier this year.

The Americans who were among the freed captives were working for the defense contractor Northrop Grumman at the time of their kidnapping. The company issued a statement late Wednesday saying it is extremely pleased that its employees, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansel, were freed safely after more than five years in FARC captivity.

The company also thanked the Colombian and U.S. governments for their efforts in securing the release of the Americans.

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