Sarkozy to Colombian rebels, free hostages

Sarkozy to Colombian rebels, free hostages

Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Colombian rebels through radio and television messages overnight to free French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped in 2002, alongwith other hostages.

In his address, directed to the head of the Marxist rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC Manuel Marulanda, , the French President said: “I have a dream -- to see Ingrid with her family for Christmas. Manuel Marulanda, you can make this dream come true, you can save this woman, you can show the world that the FARC understand humanitarian imperatives. You carry a heavy responsibility. I ask you to assume it."

Colombia recently proposed direct talks with FARC on the fate of the hostages, including Betancourt, who was captured during her presidential campaign nearly six years ago, and three US contract workers.

Bogota is under heavy pressure to reach a deal to free the hostages after President Alvaro Uribe called a halt on 21 November to mediation efforts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, causing a diplomatic row.

Proof-of-life videos released by Colombia’s government last week led to an outcry over their plight. One showed Betancourt looking gaunt and despondent in her secret jungle prison.

In a separate radio message also broadcast overnight, Sarkozy expressed support for the hostages, particularly Betancourt.

Showing support for the hostages, Sarkozy said: “The documents which have just been published deeply moved us. They show the face of suffering. They reveal the spirit of despair."

“To all of you I want to say, France will not forget you. It will never forget you. Even at this moment, France is looking for new ways to give you back your liberty, to return you to your family and your life," hhe added.

In his televised message to Marulanda, Sarkozy said he did not share the rebel leader’s ideas and condemned his methods, adding that France was committed to securing the hostages’ release.