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Uribe agrees to release 23 rebels

Dec. 3, 2004 at 11:54 AM

BOGOTA, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- In a unilateral and sudden move, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has agreed to release 23 members of the FARC guerrilla movement.

Uribe is hoping to win a positive response from the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, for a prisoner exchange that would liberate 59 military, political and police personnel -- some of whom have been held hostage for more than seven years.

"The minimum Colombian society expects is a corresponding act from the FARC," Sabas Pretelt, the interior minister, said at a news conference Thursday night.

Government authorities refused to disclose personal information about the 23 FARC prisoners but acknowledged all had been detained for acts of rebellion and not crimes against humanity or mass murder.

The rebels had previously signed letters committing themselves to government sponsored re-incorporation programs and promising not to re-arm.

Former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt is expected to be among the 59 hostages released by the FARC.

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