FARC demands immunity from arrest in Norway

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09:39 CEST+02:00
A negotiator for Colombia's FARC rebels demanded "total guarantees" Tuesday that no member of its delegation at upcoming peace talks in Norway would be arrested under pre-existing warrants.

"The warrants must be removed completely. If any judge, in Norway or elsewhere, had the idea to arrest a member of the FARC delegation it would be a disaster," senior rebel spokesman Rodrigo Granda told AFP in Havana, Cuba.

"We have demanded the total guarantees of the Colombian government that they are obliged to give us," said Granda, who has been dubbed the de-facto foreign minister for the leftist FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

In Granda's case, he cited an arrest warrant pending against him in Paraguay over the kidnapping of Cecilia Cubas, daughter of a former president of that country. Granda says he is innocent.

Talks between the Colombian government and FARC representatives -- aimed at ending Latin America's longest running conflict -- are set to begin in Oslo on October 15th, the rebel group said on Monday. They will resume at a later date in Havana.

The two sides are currently meeting in Havana to negotiate the terms of the peace talks in the Norwegian capital.

Granda, an eloquent man of 63, downplayed expectations for a breakthrough in the first session, saying the real negotiating will take place in Cuba.

"Nothing huge is going to come out of" Oslo, he said. "It is just the start."

Those anticipated discussions are the first attempt in a decade to achieve a negotiated end to a 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.

Granda reiterated rebel demands for a ceasefire during the peace talks. The government has said it will keep up military operations, however, saying that to do otherwise would give the guerrillas a strategic advantage.

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"That is totally false. What a ceasefire would do is avert deaths on both sides and harm to the civilian population," he said.

Granda also said the government's assessment that the talks should last eight months comes up short.

"If we are objective, in eight months you cannot even build the foundation of a building, and here we are talking about the architecture of peace in Colombia," Granda said.

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