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The BBC's Peter Greste, in Chiapas
"With the new administration comes the first glimmer of hope for a way out of the conflict"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 11:06 GMT
Mexico rebels to talk peace
Zapatista rebels
The Zapatistas say peace is now a possibilty
Mexico's Zapatista rebels have decided to return to peace talks in an effort to end the six-year conflict in the southern state of Chiapas.

Speaking to the press at his jungle headquarters, the rebel leader known as Subcomandante Marcos said a dialogue was now possible.

The war is not over, but the door is open

Subcomandante Marcos
The move follows the new administration's withdrawal of troops from key areas in Chiapas.

On taking office on Friday, President Vicente Fox said peace in Chiapas was his top priority.

'New dawn'

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) took up arms on New Year's Day 1994, demanding improved rights for Mexico's 10 million indigenous people.

Zapatista supporters
The Zapatistas demand the implementation of the 1996 peace deal
Two years later the San Andres peace accords were accepted by both sides.

But they were never implemented and since then there have been few signs of a significant progress towards peace in the impoverished state.

Now the Zapatistas say negotiations can be resumed.

Subcomandante Marcos - heavily armed and wearing his trademark black balaclava - made a rare public appearance on Saturday to present a list of demands before the talks can resume.

Among the rebel demands are the implementation of the peace deal, the withdrawal of troops and the release of all Zapatista prisoners.

Rebel demands
Implementation of peace accords
Closure of seven army bases
Release of all Zapatista prisoners
President Fox has already pledged to implement the peace deal and has begun dismantling military checkpoints.

"There will never again be a Mexico without you. In Mexico and in Chiapas, there will be a new dawn," said Mr Fox.

Going to Congress

While describing Mr Fox's moves as "propaganda", the rebel leader said he would regard them as an act of good faith.

President Fox
President Fox: Resolving the conflict a priority
He said: "The war is not over yet, but the door is open."

Subcomandante Marcos said he would travel to Mexico City - leaving the jungle for the first time in 15 years - to urge Congress to pass the bill granting rights to indigenous people.

Mr Fox, of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) won the presidential elections in July, thereby putting an end to the Institutional Revolutionary Party's 71-year rule.

On his second day in office, the president signed a technical co-operation agreement with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, which was rejected by the previous government.

A draft of the accord made available to the news agency AFP calls for:

  • strengthening government agencies dealing with human rights
  • training forensic doctors capable of investigating torture
  • a national dialogue on the plight of indigenous Mexicans.

Mr Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, has promised to lead Mexico with a government marked by transparency and accountability, and make the plight of the country's poor a central concern of his administration.

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See also:

03 Dec 00 | Americas
Mexico's peasant revolt
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Profile: Vicente Fox
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Vicente Fox: The road ahead
02 Dec 00 | Broadband
Mexico's Fox ends one-party rule
21 Aug 00 | Americas
Opposition claims victory in Chiapas
14 Feb 00 | Americas
Mexico urged to stop Chiapas patrols
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