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Colombia Rejects Rebel Demand to Pull Out Troops

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Tuesday rejected a demand by leftist rebels to withdraw troops from part of the country as a condition for exchanging kidnapped politicians and soldiers for imprisoned guerrillas. “There will never be a millimeter of demilitarized area in Colombia so that this throng of bandits can carry out abuses in the country,” Uribe said during the inauguration of a new anti-rebel army brigade in the cattle city of Villavicencio, southeast of the capital Bogota. His tough words came after the Revolutionary Armed Forces, known as FARC, on Monday reiterated demands that the government create a “demilitarized” area to allow the swap of hostages in rebel hands for some of 3,000 guerrillas in state prisons. Uribe, who took office in August 2002 on pledges to defeat rebels fighting in a four-decade war, was a fierce critic of former President Andres Pastrana’s decision to hand over a Switzerland-sized demilitarized area in Colombia’s southern jungles to the FARC in an effort to start peace talks. Those talks collapsed in February after rebels hijacked a commercial plane and kidnapped a senator. Full Story

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