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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 11:42 GMT
AUC militia 'resumes disarmament'
Colombian paramilitaries in disarmament ceremony
Thousands of AUC soldiers have already given up their weapons
Colombia's right-wing paramilitaries have agreed to resume disarmament after a breakthrough in talks with Bogota, the interior minister has said.

The AUC group halted disarmament last month fearing the government planned to extradite one of its leaders to the US.

The new deal resumes demobilisations and keeps the peace process "on track", Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt said.

He said the interruption in the process meant the original 31 December deadline for disarmament would be extended.

No new date for the deadline was given.

Government threat

The AUC has demobilised half of its 20,000 fighters since entering peace talks with the government two years ago.

It halted the process in October after one of its leaders, Diego Fernando Murillo, was moved from house arrest to a high-security prison.

This prompted speculation that the government was planning to extradite him to the US, where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.

AUC leaders said they wanted guarantees their leaders would not be extradited.

The government threatened to send the army to attack the AUC unless it resumed disarmament.

Deal conditions

Speaking after meeting AUC leaders to ease the deadlock, Mr Pretelt made no mention of Mr Murillo's case.

But he did promise the AUC the government would review conditions in the jails where many of the group's leaders were likely to end up, Reuters news agency reported.

AUC leaders who co-operate with the demobilisation drive, confess their crimes and surrender stolen property are expected to get reduced jail terms under the peace deal.

The AUC is an umbrella of right-wing militias set up to protect the property of wealthy landowners and drug smugglers from Marxist guerrillas.

Thousands of civilians have died in the conflict between the groups.

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