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Colombian government, rebels miss peace deal deadline

Officials from Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been unable to find a comprehensive agreement. Rebels have said they are not satisfied their fighters will be safe if they surrender.

An end to Latin America's longest war remained elusive on Wednesday as the negotiating team missed a deadline for a final peace deal between the Colombia government and militant communist rebel group FARC. Despite the setback, officials have said they will remain in Havana, Cuba, and continue to hammer out their differences.

"In all honesty, we have to inform the public that at the moment there are still important differences with the FARC," Humberto de la Calle, Bogota's lead negotiator, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Both sides have warned in recent days that the rebels' security concerns made the March 23rd deadline more and more unrealistic.

US Secretary of State

John Kerry met with FARC representatives

for the first time in the decades-long conflict on Monday, as part of President Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba. Agents for both parties have been meeting in the Cuban capital for three years in an attempt to secure a deal for Colombian voters to approve.

The militants have expressed their appreciation of US assisting with peace talks, saying it gave them more confidence that their fighters would be protected should they lay down their arms.

Since the conflict between FARC and the government broke out in the early 1960s, some 220,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians. The protracted war has seen paramilitary claims of concern over corruption and human rights abuses devolve into acts of terrorism, drug trafficking, and guerrilla warfare.

es/jr (dpa, Reuters)

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