Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 20:49 UK

Betancourt needs urgent treatment

French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt's son, Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt
Ingrid Betancourt's son told reporters her mother needed urgent treatment

Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt needs a blood transfusion within hours to stay alive, according to her son.

Lorenzo Delloye says his mother, who is also a French national, has hepatitis B and a skin disease which require a transfusion "in the coming hours".

Ms Betancourt was captured by left-wing Farc rebels in 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency.

A joint French, Spanish and Italian medical mission is due to leave for Colombia within the next day.

The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the team would leave "as soon as possible".

He added: "We have high hopes. We have done all we humanly could and now we need to wait for our envoys, the doctor, to reach the field."

'In danger'

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the mission after Colombia agreed to suspend military operations against the rebels.

"A humanitarian mission of three facilitator countries, Spain, France and Switzerland, has started, in liaison with concerned authorities," a statement from the French president's office said.

Mr Sarkozy said Ms Betancourt, held in the Colombian jungle for six years, was "in danger of imminent death".

It is not yet clear whether a plane carrying the team has left for Colombia or whether Ms Betancourt's rebel captors will allow the medical mission access.

Ingrid Betancourt in March 2001 in Paris and on a picture released in November 2007
Ingrid Betancourt before her kidnap (left) and several years later (right)
Born on 25 December 1961
Grows up in Paris
1989: Returns to Colombia
1994: Elected to lower house
1998: Becomes a senator
2002: Kidnapped by Farc rebels

Mr Delloye made an eleventh-hour appeal at a news conference in Paris on Wednesday.

"This is my last appeal. There's no more time. Either we free Mom and the other hostages or we'll lose them, and that's a question of hours," he was quoted as saying by Associated Press (AP).

Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe said the French mission, which will be accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross, had his full backing.

"We have expressed our complete agreement to allow this international medical mission to make contact with the hostages and treat them," he said.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott reports from Colombia that there is as yet no indication from Farc that they are ready to give up their most high-profile hostage.

'Grave blow'

He says that the recent killing of the group's chief negotiator was described by the rebels as a "grave blow".

Last week France offered to take in Farc rebels released from prison in exchange for 46-year-old Ms Betancourt, who has been held in the jungle since she was seized.

She was pictured looking thin and frail in a recent video.

Her case has drawn broad international attention for years, particularly in France, where she holds nationality acquired through her marriage to a Frenchman.

Her former husband has said he fears she may be dying or already dead.

She is one of 39 high-profile hostages whom Farc would like to exchange for 500 rebels currently in prison.

The rebel group has been fighting the Colombian government for over 40 years.

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Footage of Ingrid Betancourt

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