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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
Colombia backs ELN ceasefire plan
Luis Carlos Restrepo
The government negotiator insisted the ceasefire was 'experimental'
Colombia's government has agreed to a temporary ceasefire proposed by the country's second-largest rebel group, its senior peace negotiator has said.

Peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said any accord with the National Liberation Army (ELN) would not begin until rebels ended their campaign.

No specific details of the "temporary and experimental" ceasefire have been agreed yet, Mr Restrepo said.

The sides are engaged in a sixth round of talks in the Cuban capital, Havana.

The ELN proposed the ceasefire agreement on Monday, saying it was ready to begin temporary disarmament in an effort to create a viable atmosphere for peace.


Now the government of President Alvaro Uribe appears to have agreed to the proposal, under strict conditions.

"We accept the proposal that the ceasefire be experimental and temporary," Mr Restrepo said.

Formed by intellectuals in 1965
Inspired by Cuban Revolution
About 4,000 members
Mainly carries out kidnappings and attacks on infrastructure
Listed by US and Europe as terror group
"Once the ELN halts its violent actions, halts the kidnappings and frees the hostages it holds, then the government will immediately cease all type of military offensive against them."

Mr Restrepo also said the government would provide guarantees the rebels would not be captured when the ceasefire was in effect.

Correspondents say the ELN - some 4,000-strong - is not regarded as a big player in the civil conflict, which has pitted left-wing rebels against the state and right-wing paramilitaries.

However, the government is keen to remove the ELN from the equation so that it can concentrate on the more powerful Farc, with whom it has refused to talk, and the drugs trade that fuels the fighting.

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