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FARC hostages send letter to Uribe

BOGOTA -- Hostages of the Marxist FARC rebels have sent a letter to Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe asking him to make a deal with the rebels for their freedom, a family member of one of the hostages said Friday.

The letter was sent through politicians Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, who were set free January 10; two children of former congresswoman Gloria Polanco, held since July 2001, met with Uribe to deliver the letter, they said.

"We met yesterday with President Uribe. And we delivered the letter that the entire group of kidnapped people, among them my mom, sent to him" to press for a deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Juan Sebastian Losada told Radio Caracol.

Losada said Uribe reiterated his willingness to carry out a rebels-for-hostages swap in an area proposed by the Catholic Church, instead of in a demilitarized zone the FARC has demanded.

Three Americans are still being held hostage by FARC rebels in Colombia, along with 42 others, including Ingrid Betancourt — a former Colombian senator who also holds French citizenship.

The Colombian government says that FARC holds some 750 hostages and is engaged in large-scale cocaine trafficking. The rebel group is on both US and the European Union lists of terror groups.

FARC has proposed to exchange more than 40 of its hostages, including the three Americans and Betancourt, for 500 rebels held in Colombian prisons.

But the rebels and Colombian government have failed to agree on terms to negotiate the swap.

The FARC unilaterally released Rojas and Gonzalez, held for more than five years, earlier this month, delivering them to the Venezuelan government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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