Rebel-held hostages' release postponed in Colombia

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 15, 2013 01:15 hrs

The expected releases of three hostages held by Colombian rebels have been postponed, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

Red Cross delegate Angela Bertani said that rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia had decided to postpone the planned releases of the soldier and two police officers. A new date for the releases was not immediately announced.

Bertani told Colombia's RCN television that the FARC rebels made the decision apparently because of "the presence of so many media" in the area where the releases were expected to take place, about 310 kilometers (195 miles) southeast of the Colombian capital.

Red Cross representatives and a Colombian politician, former senator Piedad Cordoba, had set out by car earlier Thursday toward the zone where they had planned to pick up at least one of the hostages.

The soldier and two police officers were seized by FARC rebels last month.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos criticized the FARC for not turning over the first of the captives, calling it "unacceptable."

"No one understands why because of the presence of some news media ... these police continue to be deprived of their freedom," Santos said during a public appearance in Tumaco, a port on Colombia's Pacific coast.

"I demand that the FARC free them soon," Santos added during his appearance, which was transmitted live from the Colombian presidency's official website.

The FARC currently is pursuing peace talks with Colombian government representatives in Cuba. The rebel group declared a two-month unilateral cease-fire when the formal peace talks in Havana began, but that cease-fire lapsed on Jan. 20. The FARC had urged the government to join the cease-fire, but Santos has refused.

Colombia's president argues that agreeing to a cease-fire would give the FARC the opportunity to regroup, as it did during failed 1999-2002 talks when it was granted a Switzerland-sized safe haven.

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