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Colombia extends ceasefire with FARC rebels

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has extended a ceasefire with FARC until the end of the year. Santos is trying to reach a new peace accord after it was shot down in a referendum this month.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday said a ceasefire with Marxist rebels would be extended until December 31 as the two sides try to reach a new agreement after a historic peace accord was narrowly defeated in a referendum earlier this month to end Latin America's longest-running conflict.

"I have made the decision to extend the bilateral ceasefire until December 31. Let this be clear: This is not an ultimatum nor a deadline, but I hope that the entire process of obtaining a new agreement will be complete well before then," the president said in a televized address. 

Santos made the announcement after meeting with students who have organized demonstrations demanding the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) follow through with the peace deal reached in on September 29, just a week before Colombians voted by "No" to the accord in a referendum by only a half a percent. The two sides implemented a ceasefire in August.

Santos is now listening to proposals from those opposed to the peace deal led by hard-line senator and former president Alvaro Uribe to amend the accord.

Those opposed to the deal, which came after more than four-years of tough talks in Cuba, are against its transitional justice provisions that allow for an amnesty for most FARC guerillas or require them to perform community service in war-torn places and want those responsible for atrocities to be locked up and barred from politics.

The rebels, Colombia's armed forces and right-wing paramilitaries, have all been implicated in carrying out crimes during the nearly five-decade-long war that has claimed at least 220,000 lives and displaced some 8 million.

An amendment to the deal that doesn't include FARC transitioning to a political movement would be difficult for the leftist movement to stomach. Under the deal, FARC would have been given 10 congressional seats, which opponents say is unacceptable.

Kuba Timoshenko verfolgt den Ausgang des Referendums (picture alliance/dpa/E. Mastrascusa )

Timoshenko said on Wednesday that "soon there may be news" of a new agreement.

FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, also known by the nom-de-guerre Timochenko, said in a rare interview with Caracol Radio on Wednesday that he was open to amending parts of the accord but that it could not be renegotiated from scratch.

Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize this month, will take the opposition proposals to Cuba in a bid renegotiate parts of the deal with FARC.

cw/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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