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Colombia Rebels Reject Talks on Hostages

16 September 2005

Colombia's biggest leftist rebel group has rejected the latest call from the government for talks about exchanging hostages for jailed rebels.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said it would not agree to talks until government forces withdraw from the area where the two sides are set to meet for a period of 30 days.

President Alvaro Uribe has refused earlier demands to create a demilitarized zone.

His government has promised to ensure safe passage for any FARC negotiators to attend the proposed talks in southwestern Pradera county.

Colombia's government is offering to exchange some 500 jailed rebels for dozens of hostages, including politicians, military personnel and three U.S. defense contractors.

FARC rebels have been battling government forces and right-wing paramilitaries in a 40-year-old conflict.

Some of information in the story provided by AP.

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