Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is proposing that the Vatican assist in securing freedom for six hostages that the leftist rebel group, the FARC, has promised to release.

President Uribe said Monday in Bogota that if the Roman Catholic Church can help the hostages secure their freedom, his government would authorize and welcome such assistance. 

Mr. Uribe made the comment while preparing for a trip to the United States.  There was no immediate response from the Vatican.

Last week, the rebel group said it is willing to hand over the six hostages it has promised to free but that it will only do so in the presence of an international representative. 

The FARC said it wants someone from either a "brother country" or the international community to be on hand when it frees the hostages.

The rebels and the government have said they will let someone from the International Committee of the Red Cross be on hand for the release of the group, which includes two politicians, three police officers and a soldier.  Mr. Uribe had said last week that he does not want any other international participation.

The FARC has said it would set the hostages free in a gesture aimed at reaching a deal on a larger exchange of captives for imprisoned rebels.

In July, the FARC was dealt a blow when French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans were freed in a military operation.  They were among 15 prominent hostages released by soldiers posing as members of a humanitarian group.  The 15 were airlifted to safety without a shot being fired.

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