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Obama to Host Colombia's President in February

FILE - President Barack Obama meets with Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos at the White House in Washington, Dec. 3, 2013. Santos is scheduled for another visit in February.

U.S. President Barack Obama will host Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House in February, just weeks before Colombia's deadline for a final peace deal with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The White House said Tuesday the planned February 4 visit would be an opportunity to "celebrate the successful partnership between the United States and Colombia" and to "support the efforts of President Santos to achieve a just and lasting peace accord with the FARC."

The United States spent more than $10 billion on a program called Plan Colombia, a military and diplomatic mission to help the Colombian government wipe out drug cartels and put down a 50-year Marxist rebellion.

After several years of talks mediated by Norway and Cuba, Colombia and the FARC rebels have given themselves a March 23 deadline for a final and comprehensive peace agreement.

Five decades of fighting have killed 220,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

Militia leader freed

Also Tuesday, a right-wing militia leader charged with hundreds of murders was freed from a Colombian prison.

Ramon Isaza served eight years behind bars. He originally was given a much longer prison term, but his time was reduced as part of a 2006 peace deal.

Isaza battled the leftist rebels, but also fought for control of Colombia's wealthy and notorious Medellin drug cartel.