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Page last updated at 21:05 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 22:05 UK

Betancourt joy at French return

Footage of Ingrid Betancourt's rescue

Freed hostage Ingrid Betancourt has expressed her joy to be in France, two days after her dramatic release from captivity in the Colombian jungle.

Ms Betancourt, who holds dual Colombian and French citizenship, received a hero's welcome from President Nicolas Sarkozy after landing near Paris.

Mr Sarkozy said her release had given the world "a message of hope".

Colombia has released video of the raid, showing Ms Betancourt's first reaction at being told she was free.

'Cries of joy'

Ms Betancourt was rescued, along with 14 other captives, in an undercover operation without a shot being fired.

INGRID BETANCOURT
Ingrid Betancourt after her release 2 July 2008
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

Left-wing rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), were tricked into handing over the hostages.

Ms Betancourt had been kidnapped by the group in 2002 while she was campaigning to be president.

Ms Betancourt, who was born in Colombia but spent much of her early life in France, praised Mr Sarkozy as an "extraordinary man".

She said France's influence had helped the rescue operation pass off peacefully, and thanked the French people for their support saying: "I owe everything to France."

She said: "I have cried a great deal during this time from pain and indignation, today I am crying because of joy."

President Sarkozy was waiting with his wife, Carla Bruni, for Ms Betancourt's arrival at the military airfield near Paris on Friday.

Ms Betancourt and her family then joined the president at his official residence, the Elysee Palace, for an official welcoming ceremony.

Ingrid Betancourt was greeted by President Sarkozy

Later, she joined hundreds of supporters at Paris's City Hall to tear down a huge poster of her that marked her 2,321 days as a hostage.

Ms Betancourt's arrival in Europe came as the Vatican said in a statement that the Pope had sent a telegram to her expressing his happiness at her rescue.

The Pope will also meet her as soon as it can be arranged, the Vatican statement added.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Paris says coverage of her liberation and subsequent movements has been pretty much non-stop on French TV and radio.

Ms Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency against current incumbent Alvaro Uribe when she was kidnapped by Farc guerrillas.

After her release she thanked Mr Uribe and said she still aspired "to serve Colombia as president".

Mr Uribe was first elected president in 2002. He has pursued a hardline stance against Colombia's left-wing guerrilla groups while making tentative peace overtures.

CAPTIVITY TIMELINE
Feb, 2002: Betancourt kidnapped by Farc rebels
Feb, 2003: US defence contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves seized by after their plane goes down in southern Colombia
Jan, 2008: Betancourt aide Clara Rojas and ex-congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez freed by Farc
March, 2008: Colombian forces raid rebel camp in Ecuador and kill Farc commander Raul Reyes
March, 2008: Farc leader Manuel Marulanda dies of reported heart attack
July, 2008: Colombian military frees Ms Betancourt, the three US contractors and 11 other hostages

The Farc, which has been waging a guerrilla war to establish a Marxist government for the past four decades, still holds as many as 700 hostages.

Wednesday's successful rescue by Colombian security forces was launched after a disgruntled Farc member infiltrated the group's leadership on behalf of the government.

He convinced them to move Ms Betancourt and 14 other hostages to a rendezvous point in the jungle.

Waiting there were Colombian soldiers, posing as members of a non-government organisation.

The local commander in charge of the hostages and another rebel were captured. They now face extradition to the US.

Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos told the BBC that it was the beginning of the end of the Farc.

He said the government was weakening the rebels to a point of no return.

Ms Betancourt later had a tearful reunion with her two children, Melanie and Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, who had flown to the Colombian capital Bogota from France.


FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Reuters Colombia tricks rebels in bloodless hostage rescue - 7 hrs ago
Denver Post "Miracle" rescue frees Colombia hostages - 7 hrs ago
FOXNews.com Betancourt to Meet Sarkozy, Says France Kept Her Alive - 7 hrs ago
CNN Hostages freed; Uribe calls for peace - 7 hrs ago
Sky News Colombian Hostage Relives Rescue - 7 hrs ago



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