Colombian Paramilitary Forces Promise Church to Abandon Conflict

BOGOTA, Colombia, DEC. 2, 2002 ( Colombia’s principal paramilitary organization signaled that it would accept a Christmas truce suggested by the Church. It also expressed a commitment to gradually abandon the country’s armed conflict.

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The Self-Defense Units of Colombia (AUC) sent a letter to Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, archbishop of Bogota, outlining its plans.

The letter, headed «Declaration for the Peace of Colombia,» was also sent to President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and to Luis Carlos Restrepo, High Commissioner for Peace.

In the text, the paramilitary group lists some conditions to begin a stage of immediate talks with the government, «with the support and overseeing of the Catholic Church» and «the decisive participation of the Organization of American States, the U.N., and the international community.»

The letter demands that the government end all legal actions against negotiators who participate in a peace process and that it release AUC members from prison.

The paramilitary forces said they are willing to hand over to UNICEF the minors in their ranks and to allow refugees to return home in the areas the forces control.

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