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Colombia's Santos meets critics of FARC peace deal

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has met his predecessor Alvaro Uribe - the key opponent of his deal with the FARC rebels. The two agreed to form a commission to evaluate the terms of a new accord with the group.

Alvaro Uribe, left, is taking a harder line than Juan Manuel Santos, but says he still wants peace

Alvaro Uribe, left, is taking a harder line than Juan Manuel Santos, but says he still wants peace

Santos and former President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday agreed to form a commission that would look at ways to improve the agreement.

Both expressed their willingness to end the 52-year conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions more. However, Santos' opponents, including Uribe, say the deal as it exists at present offers too much to the former leftist guerillas.

Voters in Colombia rejected the accord in a shock referendum result earlier this week, leaving the peace agreement stuck in limbo. A week earlier, Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono Echeverri had signed a peace agreement in a widely publicized and extravagant ceremony.

Uribe - who led a campaign against the accord on the grounds that it was too lenient on FARC members - emphasized the need for "adjustments and proposals."

"It's better to achieve peace for all Colombians than a weak accord for half the nation's citizens," he said after the meeting.

Seeking to 'resolve doubts'

However, Santos - who also met former President Andres Pastrana, another opponent of the present deal - was notably upbeat. He said that peace was close and that opponents of the accord would have their concerns addressed in the drafting of a new document.

"We identified that many of their worries come from points that need clarification or precisions. Today we began to work with them to firm up those points and resolve their doubts," Santos said in a brief statement.

Most observers had expected voters to approve the 297-page peace document. The rejection means that the terms of any peace agreement would need to be renegotiated before being put to citizens once more in a plebiscite.

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said on Wednesday that Colombia would keep in place a ceasefire that has been in effect since June.

rc/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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