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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 February 2008, 23:14 GMT
'Progress made' on Farc hostages
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
The Farc has said it would only release the hostages to Mr Chavez
Venezuela says it has taken the first steps towards securing the release of three hostages held by Colombian Marxist rebel group, the Farc.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said the deal involved three of dozens of high-profile hostages held by the Farc.

The group announced its intentions to release Orlando Beltran, Luis Eladio Perez and Gloria Polanco last week.

Mr Chavez urged the hostage's relatives to remain calm as the rebels had not yet announced a date for their release.

He said the information his government had was that the three, all politicians held since 2001, were in good condition.

"We have already had contact with the Farc on this issue - and let's say we have been taking the first steps along this path," said Mr Chavez, referring to the planned release.

He did not elaborate further on the discussions his government had held with the guerrilla movement.

Pivotal role

The Farc said that it would only release the hostages to Mr Chavez, despite the fact that he has been removed as an official mediator by the Colombian government.

The Venezuelan president played a seemingly pivotal role in securing the release of another two Farc hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, last month.

Claudia Rugeles and Alan Jara, wife and son of ex-state governor Alan Jara hold up photos
Families campaign to keep the hostages' plight in the public eye

The development comes days after hundreds of thousands of Colombians flooded the streets of Bogota protesting against the Marxist rebels.

Last Monday's protesters - numbering as many as two million according to some estimates - waved flags and wore T-shirts with the slogan: "No more kidnapping, no more lies, no more deaths, no more Farc."

Anti-Farc protests were also held in 100 other cities around the world as part of a campaign instigated less than a month ago by a 33-year-old Colombian engineer on the social networking website, Facebook.

Colombians in huge Farc protest
04 Feb 08 |  Americas
Colombia hostages 'to be freed'
03 Feb 08 |  Americas
US jails Colombian rebel leader
29 Jan 08 |  Americas

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