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Catholic Prelate Confirms Contacts with Colombian Rebel Chief

Aug 13--Cardinal Dario Castrillon confirmed on Wednesday that he has talked with the leader of Colombia’s largest rebel group as part of the Colombian hierarchy’s effort to mediate an end to the Andean nation’s decades-long civil war.

he former high-ranking Vatican official said he acted under President Alvaro Uribe’s authorization for the Colombian bishops conference to initiate contacts with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

“Yes, I have had telephone conversations with (FARC chief) Alfonso Cano and with another (rebel) whose name escapes me at the moment,” the cardinal said as he emerged from a meeting with Uribe.

Castrillon said he and Cano discussed a peace proposal the FARC is preparing, but provided no further details.

Uribe said in April that the only entities authorized to talk to the FARC about the release of rebel prisoners were the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross.

Since then, however, the rightist president gave his blessing to the participation of opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba in the promised handover of a soldier held by the FARC for nearly 12 years.

The FARC announced months ago its intention to release army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo and another soldier to Cordoba, while also promising to turn over the body of a policeman who died of an illness during captivity.
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