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Chavez says hostages set to be freed today

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Chavez says hostages set to be freed today


There are signs of new hope for the imminent release of two hostages held by Colombian rebels. It comes from the Venezuelan President, just days after a previous mission to free the pair collapsed. Hugo Chavez, who has good relations with the FARC rebels, says he could send helicopters to pick up the two within hours. This, he says, after guerilla leaders told him the exact location of the captives.

Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez have been held in camps in the jungle for years. Late last year Chavez sent a delegation to neighbouring Colombia to pick up the captives but the rebels backed off at the last minute.

That episode strained relations between the two countries, but the Colombian government says it will back this latest mission.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also confirmed it will take part in the rescue. FARC began its fight against the state in the 1960s and is said to be largely funded by the trade in cocaine.

The group holds hundreds of hostages, including three US citizens and the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

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