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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 05:40 GMT 06:40 UK
MP meets Colombian vice president
Farc rebels train in southern Colombia (file)
Farc has waged a 40-year insurgency in Colombia
The DUP MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson, is meeting the vice president of Colombia during his visit to the country.

He is also expected to view explosives with the Colombian military.

Mr Donaldson has been joined by members of South Armagh-based victims' group Fair who are in Colombia to meet up with other victims' groups.

The Fair members are hoping to form a world network of victims' organisations.

As well as Vice President Francisco Santos, the group will meet senior politicians and security and intelligence experts.

The alleged links between the Marxist rebel group, Farc, and the IRA are likely to be high on the agenda.

The party left Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Fair spokesperson William Frazer said the trip was originally organised at the invitation of several contacts in Colombia.

"We felt it was a great opportunity to develop links with terror victims in a worldwide context," he said.

'Propaganda'

"Our aim is to establish a world network of victim's organisations, seeking justice and working in the interests of those innocents affected by terror."

North Belfast assembly member, Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein, said the visit was "cheap propaganda".

"Rather than using the return of the Colombia Three to distract people, the DUP should deal with the very real crisis in the political process created by the failure of unionists to deal with unionist paramilitary violence," he said.

"Jeffrey Donaldson is travelling over 5,000 miles yet he won't deal with loyalist violence on his doorstep."

The visit comes a few weeks after the Irish government confirmed it had received contact from the American government over the so-called Colombia Three.

Mr Donaldson is currently in Colombia
Mr Donaldson is hoping to establish a victims' network

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan are wanted in Colombia where they were sentenced to 17 years in jail for training Marxist rebels.

The men returned to Ireland after skipping bail while awaiting an appeal.

The Irish government said while no formal extradition request had been received from Colombia, the matter should not "simply go unaddressed" by the Irish authorities.

The three republicans were questioned by Irish police after presenting themselves at Garda stations. They were all released without charge.

The trio were arrested in Bogota in August 2001.

They were found guilty of travelling on false passports in June 2004, but were acquitted of training the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

That decision was reversed after an appeal by the Colombian attorney general and they were sentenced to 17-year terms.





SEE ALSO:
Irish government pledge over trio
19 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
'Colombia Three' men all released
19 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Two of 'Colombia Three' released
18 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland


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