Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 16:41 UK

Bastille Day award for Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt (R) is congratulated by French First Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy as French President Nicolas Sarkozy looks on at the Elysee Palace in Paris, 14 July 2008
Ms Betancourt received the award during Bastille Day celebrations

Ingrid Betancourt, the former hostage rescued from Colombian rebels earlier this month, has received France's highest award, the Legion of Honour.

President Nicolas Sarkozy presented the award at the traditional Bastille Day garden party in Paris's Elysee Palace.

The award was a way of acknowledging the former hostage as a symbol of hope, he said, adding that other hostages around the world should be freed.

Ms Betancourt spent six years in the hands of the Colombian rebels.

The 46-year-old thanked the French president, and said she was counting on him to help free the scores of other hostages held by the group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

But she added that the remaining hostages were probably being treated worse as a result of her rescue.

"My heart bleeds because my companions of misfortune, other Colombians like myself still remain in the hands of Farc," she told crowds gathered for the ceremony on the palace lawns.

"They don't have any voice, they are alone and they are probably treated even worse than before after what happened 10 days ago. Their chains are probably shorter than before," she said.

Presidential aspirations

Ms Betancourt was freed along with 14 other hostages by Colombian agents in an audacious operation on 2 July.

Ingrid Betancourt - 9/7/2008
Ms Betancourt's story has drawn a wide circle of well-wishers
Ms Betancourt - who has Colombian and French citizenship - received a hero's welcome in France 10 days ago.

She has said that France's influence had helped the rescue operation pass off peacefully.

The 46-year-old was rescued when her Marxist rebel captors were tricked into handing over their hostages by Colombian soldiers posing as rebels.

She had been kidnapped by the group in 2002 while she was campaigning to be Colombia's president against the current incumbent, Alvaro Uribe.

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

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