End to Armed Conflict in Colombia Is Urged

In Response to New Escalation of Violence

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
In face of escalating violence in Colombia, John Paul II again called for an end to the armed conflict in that country.

«There can be no talk of peace when this fundamental value is not respected,» the Holy Father said during Wednesday´s general audience.

At least four rebels and four military men died Tuesday during a frustrated attempt by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to takeover the San Carlos municipality in the northwest of the country.

FARC, Colombia´s principal guerrilla group, has 15,000 armed men deployed throughout the country. Colombia has been enduring an armed conflict for 36 years, which escalated over the last decade, resulting in 35,000 dead.

«I would like to ask all sides to promote a loyal and effective dialogue, while I implore that the kidnapping of individuals, terrorist acts, attacks on life, as well as the plague of drug trafficking, cease,» the Pope said firmly. «The time has come for us to turn again to the Lord of Life so that he will move the hearts of all Colombians and make them understand that they are a great and unique family.»

FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, alias «Tirofijo» («Good-Shot»), said Tuesday that the peace process is still frozen. The only possibility he accepted is a «humanitarian» dialogue with the government, especially the exchange of 500 uniformed men, which the guerrillas have kidnapped, for imprisoned rebels.

On Monday, President Andrés Pastrana exhorted FARC to renew the dialogue. «It is unilaterally up to FARC to return to the table,» he said.

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