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Colombian rebel rejects peace talks deadline

Talks between Colombia and the FARC began in Oslo, Norway, in October and have continued since the following month in the Cuban capital.

Havana: A leading peace negotiator of Colombia`s main rebel group has rejected the government`s insistence that talks wrap up by November ahead of national elections, saying the president should not put his personal ambition ahead of the peace process.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Marco Leon Calarca said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were hopeful the months` long negotiations would lead to peace, and heartened that the two sides had reached agreement on the first major point of dispute between them: land reform.

But he also said there could be no short-cuts and the issues that remain including political reintegration, drug trafficking, victim compensation and implementation of the accord are hard to resolve.

"We hope the discussion will be more fluid," Calarca said in this week`s interview. "But these are not simple themes, and for that reason they are on the agenda."
Talks between Colombia and the FARC began in Oslo, Norway, in October and have continued since the following month in the Cuban capital. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, under pressure at home ahead of a re-election bid in May 2014, has said that he will pull out if no agreement is reached by November.

Observers say his electoral fate is likely tied to the success of the talks. They have pointed to his falling poll numbers as a factor that could aid the discussions, since the rebels presumably fear any progress made at the peace table would be wiped out if he Santos loses the vote.
But Calarca, a longtime international spokesman for FARC who is one of the principal negotiators at the talks, disputed that notion, saying a Santos defeat could bring an even better negotiating partner to the presidency.

"Why would it be negative if Santos loses, if the person who wins is on the left?"

said Calarca, adding that the rebels had called on all candidates to voice support for the peace process. "The peace process does not depend on Santos. That is not to say we are against him."
Calarca also questioned why the election campaign should have any impact on the talks at all, saying "it is lamentable that the process and its negative or positive results be tied to personal ambition."


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