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Latin America

FARC rebels declare pause in peace talks

Colombia's FARC guerrilla army have walked away from peace talks with the government. The Marxist rebels say they need time to review a government plan to put any peace deal to a popular vote.

The decision to suspend peace talks that began nine months ago in Havana, Cuba was temporary, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) emphasized late on Friday.

"The FARC has decided to take a pause from the discussion table to focus exclusively on analyzing the reach of the government proposal, without detriment to the internal consultation it must perform as an organization," the rebels said in a statement.

It comes after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that he was asking Congress to consider a bill, which would see a public referendum on an eventual peace deal coincide with congressional or presidential elections next year.

Santos called the suspension "perfectly legitimate," but also said that the "Colombian people's patience has a limit."

The rebels insist on a constitutional convention to enshrine a peace deal in the country's constitution. They do not trust that a referendum could protect agreements reached in Havana.

Colombians are desperate to see an end to the war that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 1964. FARC began as a struggle against rural inequality. Although it has been severely weakened in the past 10 years by a heavy U.S.-backed offensive, it remains a considerable threat.

Earlier this year, a preliminary accord was struck on agrarian reform. "We have made much progress, I must reiterate that point," Santos said. "The agreement we reached on the first point [agrarian reform] is a transcendental agreement. Nobody, or few, imagined we would reach a deal on that first point."

ng/slk (Reuters, AP)