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FARC offers to put talks on hold

October 9, 2013

HAVANA (AP) — A negotiator for Colombia’s main leftist rebel group says it is prepared to put peace talks on hold until after May presidential elections.

          Negotiator Andres Paris also said Wednesday in Havana that both sides are close to an agreement on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s participation in the country’s political life.

          Paris told reporters the groups known by its Spanish initials FARC is prepared to move ahead on whatever the government offers in order to preserve the peace process.

          The talks to end a nearly half-century-old conflict began in Cuba a year ago. They have proceeded more slowly than Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos desired. He is up for re-election in May, although he has not officially declared his candidacy.

          Legislative elections are also due in March and Santos hard-line predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, is running for Senate. He is a staunch opponent of the peace process.

          On Wednesday, Santos publicly repeated his plea for faster progress in the talks, where the most difficult issues have surrounded post-conflict measures to address abuses and rebel leaders’ stated unwillingness to go to jail. A confidential partial agreement on land reform has been reached, negotiators say.

          The 15th and latest round of Havana talks began on Oct. 3.

The discussions have been held without a cease-fire because Santos has opposed it.

Colombian authorities on Wednesday blamed FARC rebels for several Tuesday attacks with explosives that toppled three energy towers in the nation’s southeast, as well as an attack on a pipeline that paralyzed the flow of gas sent to Venezuela.

The FARC are the Western Hemisphere’s oldest and most potent leftist rebel group with an estimated 9,000 combatants.

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