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Colombia accepts Venezuela hostage release plan
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The Colombian government gave on Wednesday its formal authorization to a Venezuelan government plan to collect three people held by Colombia's largest rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Colombia's Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said that Colombia thanks Venezuela and its President Hugo Chavez, for its efforts to free the three hostages and added that its only condition was that the helicopters that entered Colombia from Venezuela should all have the Red Cross emblem.

Araujo, who had been a guerrilla hostage and escaped in early 2007, also said that the Colombian government's high commissioner for peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, must represent Colombia at the handover.

Chavez had told media earlier on Wednesday that all he was waiting for was for Colombian government authorization for the helicopters to fly out from Venezuela to "some spot" in Colombia to pick up three hostages that the FARC had on Dec. 9 said they would release.

The three are former legislator Consuelo Gonzalez, former Colombia vice-presidential candidate Clara Rojas, and Emmanuel, Rojas's son born in captivity.

Under the Chavez plan, aircraft will travel into Colombia bearing envoys from France, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia to support the hostage release operation.

Chavez did not say if the French envoy would give the FARC any special petition for Ingrid Betancourt, a French citizen and former Colombian presidential candidate kidnapped in February 2002 at the same time as Rojas.

Chavez had said that once the helicopters had picked up the three hostages, they would fly to a secret location in either Venezuela or Ecuador, both Colombia's neighbors.

At the early Wednesday conference, Chavez had urged Colombia not to try what he described as a "clandestine rescue" and to avoid putting hostages' lives at risk or frustrating the swap.

(Xinhua News Agency December 27, 2007)

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