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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 10:32 GMT
Peace talks dominate Colombia papers
Colombian right-wing paramilitaries
Under attack from the right and the left
Newspapers in Colombia are consumed with the issue of whether or not the government of President Andres Pastrana should return to peace negotiations with the left-wing rebel FARC movement.

An opinion poll in the conservative daily El Espectador shows overwhelming opposition to a renewal of talks.

Asked whether Mr Pastrana should resume the dialogue with the leader of the FARC, Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda, 85% said no and only 15% were in favour. There were no "don't knows".

Our war stems from the need to survive of certain people who suffer poverty and marginalisation

Victor Paz Otero in El Espectador

Yet a commentary in the daily by Victor Paz Otero lauded an initiative by the mayor of Medellin, who proposed that every fighter who deserted the left-wing rebels or the right-wing paramilitaries be guaranteed a job for 10 years.

"Our war stems from the need to survive of certain people who have no real opportunity to get decent jobs and live a dignified life... who suffer poverty and marginalisation."

Soldiers were leaving the armed forces to join either the paramilitaries or the rebels "according to who pays more", Mr Paz Otero argued. "They are fighting for their physical survival."

"The mayor's proposal is sensible, intelligent, practical and even enlightened... it corresponds to reality."

The country backs the stand of the president who decisively said the time was up for the FARC's arrogance

El Pais

A major daily in the main south-west city of Cali, El Pais, said Mr Pastrana's initiative in giving the rebels a deadline to leave their safe haven had called their bluff.

"The country backs the stand of the president who decisively said the time was up for the FARC's arrogance.

"The firm stand of the nation forced a change in the FARC's dogmatism," El Pais said. "The message is clear. No more dialogue in the midst of war. No more kidnapping, blackmail and terror. No more delays in the negotiations.

"The country must remain vigilant, supporting the firm stand of the president. The armed forces must be ready to reestablish order," El Pais added. Such strength had allowed the government to "take control of the process for the first time in 1,000 days. We must persevere with it".

Colombia's leading daily, El Tiempo, welcomed the intervention of the United Nations in the process.

"It is clear that the mediation of a third party, whether the UN or other friendly countries, is an essential ingredient for the peace process

El Tiempo

In an editorial entitled "The last chance", it described the decision of the FARC to accept further talks with the government as "almost a miracle, that demonstrates the potential of a true internationalisation of the peace process".

"It is clear that the mediation of a third party, whether the UN or other friendly countries, is an essential ingredient for the peace process to be brought to a successful conclusion."

El Tiempo warned the government it needed to approach future talks with the rebels with a "new strategy... which takes into account the country's traditional problems, like corruption and impunity".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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