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DIPLOMACY

Colombia talks to start on October 15th: FARC

Talks in Oslo between Colombia's government and the leftist FARC rebels - aimed at ending one of Latin America's oldest conflicts - are set to begin on October 15th, the group said on Monday.

The statement sent to reporters in Havana, Cuba, where the parties met to negotiate the terms of the peace talks also said "the national government and the FARC … will make a public announcement on October 17th in the city of Oslo, Norway."

An earlier announcement from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia had said the negotiations were to begin in Oslo on October 8th, before continuing in Havana.

The emailed statement was accompanied by an open letter from the FARC to one of its commanders, Simon Trinidad, serving a 60-year sentence in the US for kidnapping three Americans, whom the FARC listed as one of the negotiators for the Oslo talks.

The letter said they included Trinidad as a FARC team member for the dialogue as a point of "pride of the fighters for people's rights."

"The forms of realizing your contribution to this project will be discussed during talks," the letter noted, adding that achieving peace would require
"resolving the causes of the war."

The letter, signed on Monday by the Central Staff of FARC in the mountains of Colombia, alleged that Trinidad was unfairly imprisoned for his FARC
activities, which they characterized as "defending the rights of the dispossessed."

This month's peace talks are the first attempt in a decade to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict that began when the guerrilla group was founded in 1964. Three earlier attempts failed.

The last round of peace talks, held in 2002, collapsed when the Colombian government concluded that the guerrillas were regrouping in a Switzerland-sized demilitarized zone it created to help reach a peace deal.

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IMMIGRATION

Iranian diplomat seeks Norway asylum

An Iranian diplomat has applied for political asylum in Norway, his lawyer confirmed on Friday.

"He doesn't want to comment in public on his reasons for doing this," Jørgen Løvdal said.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, was posted to Norway in 2009 and had been working at the Iranian embassy in Oslo, but defected in December, Løvdal said.

"Unfortunately we do not have any comment on this matter," a spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Oslo said when contacted by AFP.

The man would be the fourth Iranian diplomat to seek protection in a Nordic country in three years.

The ex-consul general of Iran's embassy in Oslo, Mohamed Reza Heydari, was granted asylum by Norway in February 2010 after resigning from his job.

A press attache at the Iranian embassy in Brussels, Farzad Farhangian who also defected to Norway in 2010, said in September that year he intended to join the opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the same month, a senior official at Iran's embassy in Helsinki, Hossein Alizadeh, sought asylum in Finland.

Tehran said personal rather than political motives were behind Heydari's and Farhangian's defections, while an Iranian MP accused the three diplomats of having mental problems.

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