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Colombian president, opposition leader meet Pope Francis on FARC peace

By Andrew V. Pestano
Colombian president, opposition leader meet Pope Francis on FARC peace
Pope Francis and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met on Friday in the Vatican. Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who is not pictured, later met with the pair in order to reconcile differences related to the Colombian government's peace deal with the FARC rebel group, but Uribe's post-meeting comments suggest no common ground was found. Photo courtesy of Presidency of Colombia

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday in attempts to reconcile differences related to a peace deal with the FARC rebel group.

Santos and Uribe have been at odds long before the Colombian government's initial peace deal was rejected by citizens in a referendum vote in early October.

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After the meeting mediated by Francis in the Vatican's papal library, Uribe maintained his assertion that profound changes needed to be made in the second version of the peace agreement, El Tiempo reported.

Those who voted "no" to the peace deal, a movement led by Uribe, said they thought the terms of the first deal were too lenient in favor of FARC. "No" voters wanted FARC rebels found guilty of crimes to be banned from running for public office, wanted FARC leaders to serve time in prison for crimes committed and wanted the group to use its illegally acquired funds to pay for compensation to victims.

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In seeking an agreement that would be accepted, the opposition proposed for rules to be established in terms of impunity and justice systems, for FARC rebels found guilty of crimes to be ineligible to run for public office while serving sentences, and that the peace agreement not be included in Colombia's Constitution.

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"I thank Pope Francis for your prayers for Colombia and his support on the road that lies ahead. Your guidance is a blessing for peace," Santos said after the meeting.

Uribe previously said the latest version of a peace agreement is "merely a retouch of the agreement rejected by citizens."

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