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Saturday, Aug. 24, 2002 at 8:34 AM
Colombia's largest guerrilla organisation FARC says that it is willing to negotiate peace with new Colombian president Alvaro Uribe if he cracks down on the paramilitary death squads and withdraw government forces from two southern departments.
In a new communiqué received by ANNCOL, the supreme command of the rebel army FARC-EP says that it has followed the new presidents public announcements carefully and has so far only detected a desire for total war. Nevertheless, the guerrillas say that their offer to restart peace negotiations, which were unilaterally abandoned by the government of ex-President Andres Pastrana in February, is still standing.
"[The FARC reiterates] its profound convictions in the urgent necessity to reach a political solution to the armed social conflict from which the family of Colombians suffers," the statement from the rebels said.
The FARC leadership however rejected Uribe's demand that the guerrillas surrender to the government forces before any negotiations can start. During their recent offensive the rebels have dealt several blows to the official army and Uribe has responded by assuming special powers and declaring Colombia in a "state of unrest". Earlier this month a FARC unit wiped out a military training camp near Valparaíso in Caquetá department killing 29 death squad members and five of their instructors from the Colombian Army's 7th Brigade.
The FARC demands the demilitarization of the southern departments of Putumayo and Caquetá and "a clear policy to eliminate the paramilitaries who are financed fundamentally by drug sales and trafficking, the CIA and some industrialists, as their own leader has admitted." Furthermore, the rebels stated that "there must be punishment and removal of military, police and other government officials implicated in this criminal activity as well as punishment for the promoters, supporters and financiers [of the paramilitaries]"
The FARC also requests the government of Alvaro Uribe to annul the official labels of "terrorist" and "narco-terrorist" that were given to the rebel organisation by the Pastrana administration.
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