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U.S. Sees Castro Role in Colombia

January 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department expressed hope Tuesday that Cuban President Fidel Castro will use his influence to promote peace and democracy in Colombia _ if he assumes a role as mediator in that country’s civil war.

Spokesman James P. Rubin noted that Castro accepted a request from Colombian President Andres Pastrana to act as a go-between at some point in Colombia’s peace process.

``If this were to occur, let me simply say we hope that Castro would convey very clearly to the insurgents that the time for violence is over and that all Colombians should be working towards a negotiated settlement with full respect for democratic institutions and human rights,″ Rubin said.

He added: ``If the communist leader of Cuba thinks he can persuade communist insurgents to lay down their arms, we’re not going to complain about it.″

Pastrana met with Castro in Havana in recent days. Also taking part in the talks was Venezuelan President-elect Hugo Chavez.

Pastrana has given high priority to ending Colombia’s 34-year civil war and opened negotiations on Jan. 7 with Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the 15,000-member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

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