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Colombia's FARC rebels demand ceasefire

FARC rebels have said they will seek a ceasefire next month during landmark peace talks with the Colombian government. The talks are aimed at ending decades of conflict, although a truce is considered unlikely.

Senior FARC commander Maurico Jaramillo demanded the bilateral ceasefire on Thursday ahead of long-anticipated peace talks which begin in October 8.

"We will propose a ceasefire as soon as we sit down at the negotiating table," Mauricio Jaramillo told a news conference in the Cuban capital, Havana.

"Better said, we are going to fight for it. We are going to discuss it there at the table, but it is one of the first points," he added.

Jaramillo's demands are likely to go unheeded, however. Announcing the opening of the talks this week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he would not agree to a truce during the negotiations. He added that the army would keep up, or even increase pressure on FARC rebel forces.

"The government will reject this immediately and that will play into the hands of the FARC, which wants to continue in combat," said security analyst Alfredo Rangel in Bogota. "The FARC will use violence to pressure the government at the negotiating table."

Decades of conflict

The talks, which are due to begin in Norway's capital Oslo are the first attempt in over a decade to reach a negotiated end to the bloody conflict with began with the formation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia over five decades ago.

Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel force commander Mauricio Jaramillo talks during a news conference in Havana REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

Mauricio Jaramillo told reporters FARC has 'always wanted peace'

The last attempt to end Latin America's oldest armed conflict fell apart in 2002 when rebels were found to have used a demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland to rebuild military operations and establish a multibillion-dollar drug-trafficking network.

FARC, now estimated to be 8,000-strong, is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and Washington. It was founded back in 1964, mostly by landless peasants angered by large divisions between rich and poor in Colombia. In recent years support for the group's Marxist cause has weakened, although violence rages on.

On Tuesday FARC rebels blew up two trucks at a coal mine. Danilo Garcia, a top rebel commander and right hand man to FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, was later killed in a bombing attack by government troops.

ccp/xxxxx (AFP, Reuters)

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