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Rebels Threaten Colombian Mayors

June 27, 2002

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ More than 100 government officials defied rebel death threats Thursday, withdrawing their resignations and agreeing to go back to work.

At least 34 mayors and almost 100 city employees in Arauca and Antioquia states withdrew their resignations after meeting with national officials, said Gilberto Toro, president of the Colombian Federation of Municipalities.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, warned 110 mayors and several hundred city officials that they would be considered military targets if they did not resign by midnight Wednesday.

Minister of Justice Romulo Gonzales said the government was not alarmed by rebel threats. He said the rebels would be forced to kidnap or kill some 500,000 government employees to carry out the threat.

``You will see that this is a psychological war, because they have lost all the battles,″ Gonzalez said. ``They will lose this one too.″

Federal officials have met with those threatened and have offered bodyguards, armored cars and the opportunity to work from within military bases.

Dozens of mayors are already working from provincial capitals or Bogota, and city halls around the country have been forced to close because of the rebel pressure.

In an interview with Radio Super on Wednesday, a FARC commander identified only as ``Alberto″ said the rebel threat extended to ``everywhere in the country where the establishment has a presence.″

The rebels say the threats are aimed at forcing the government to resume failed peace talks, which President Andres Pastrana ended in February after three years of negotiations.

Since the first threats were made public three weeks ago, the FARC has been blamed for the murder of one mayor.

Authorities Thursday confirmed another mayor _ Rigo Calvo of the town of La Sierra _ had been abducted from his office.

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