France Cancels Mission to Aid Colombia Hostage

Associated Press
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

BOGOTA, Colombia, April 8 -- France on Tuesday called off a humanitarian mission to treat and possibly free ailing hostage Ingrid Betancourt after Colombian rebels said they would not unilaterally release any more captives.

Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen, was abducted six years ago by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, while campaigning for the presidency.

The rebel statement seemed intended to force Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to make the next move. It also leaves Betancourt and dozens of other hostages languishing in jungle prisons while making peace talks more remote.

A French government plane has been waiting on a Bogota airstrip since Thursday with doctors hoping to reach Betancourt, who is said to be suffering from hepatitis.

The FARC wants the government to demilitarize two counties as the first step toward a broad hostage-prisoner swap. Only as part of such an exchange, they said, would Betancourt go free.

The rebel statement, dated Friday and released Tuesday, said France had not coordinated with the rebels before its plane arrived.

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