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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
France apologises over rescue bid
French Hercules plane in Manaus
The French plane stayed in Manaus for several days
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has apologised to Brazil over a secret mission to the Amazon to rescue a high-profile hostage that sparked a diplomatic dispute.

The French Government has admitted that it sent a military plane to northern Brazil early this month, anticipating that kidnapped French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt would be freed by rebels.

A Hercules C-130 transporter landed in Manaus, the closest large Brazilian city to the Colombian border, but Brazil ordered it out, saying France had given no warning over the mission's nature.

The French mission has caused tensions with Brazil and with Colombia, over the extent to which the Latin American countries were informed about it.


Ms Betancourt was not freed and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group, which has been holding her for more than a year, denied it was intending to free her.

Mr de Villepin told Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim he was sorry for any embarrassment caused to the Brazilian authorities.

"(De Villepin) regrets not having been able to, as he would have liked, informed Amorim sooner, as well as the embarrassment that this may have caused for Brazilian authorities," a French statement said.

Mr Amorim told the AFP new agency that he regarded, as "satisfactory in principle" France's explanation after a telephone conversation with his French counterpart.

Video plea by Colombian hostage
24 Jul 02  |  Americas
Outrage at Colombian kidnap
26 Feb 02  |  Americas
Country profile: Colombia
12 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Colombia
12 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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