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Colombian rebels insist on trading hostages

December 8, 2011
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BOGOTA, Colombia—The new leader of Colombia's largest rebel group repeated on Thursday a proposal for the government to free jailed guerrillas in exchange for rebel-held hostages.

A statement from Timoleon Jimenez, commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said that "any humanitarian accord could open the doors to a dialogue for peace."

The statement was posted on a rebel website a day after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos rejected such an exchange and called on the rebels to free all their hostages unilaterally as a step toward possible dialogue.

"Peace is seen as Colombians' most intense ... yearning, while from Santos' mouth there are only threats of deepening the war," Jimenez said in the statement.

A dozen hostages, including eight police officers and four soldiers, have been held by the FARC for more than a decade. Hundreds of rebels are in Colombian prisons.

Jimenez, whose given name is Rodrigo Londono, took over as commander of the FARC after the previous rebel chief, Alfonso Cano, was killed in combat Nov. 4.

The leftist rebel group has been fighting Colombia's government since 1964 and is estimated to have between 8,000 and 9,000 fighters.

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