Colombia's FARC rebels end ceasefire

Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:52pm EST
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - A unilateral ceasefire declared by the Marxist FARC rebels at the start of peace talks with the Colombian government ended on Sunday after the government refused to join the truce, the group said.

"With pain in my heart, we have to admit that we return to the stage of war that nobody in this country (Colombia) wants," FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez told reporters before going into the latest session of the talks aimed at ending Colombia's long, bloody conflict.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared the ceasefire when the talks began on November 19 in Havana, and gave the Colombian government two months to also lay down its arms.

"The fact is that the number of operations carried out by the group decreased significantly, the number of police and soldiers killed or injured decreased ... The conclusion is that there was a relative compliance with the ceasefire," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said late on Sunday.

Santos said the FARC was involved in some violence during the ceasefire, but it was hard to tell whether the guerrillas were defending themselves or attacking.

Government forces have continued to attack and kill the rebels in their remote strongholds in the jungles and mountains of Colombia. Santos, who had rejected the ceasefire from the beginning, said the rebels may be planning a new offensive.

Marquez did not disclose their plans, but urged Santos to reconsider the government's decision not to lay down arms.

Colombian officials had called the ceasefire a sham to gain international favor and said the government would maintain the military pressure to keep FARC at the negotiating table.   Continued...