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FARC rebels urge Colombians to 'mobilize for peace'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Leftist FARC rebels called on Colombians to "mobilize for peace" on Tuesday after President Juan Manuel Santos threatened to abandon talks aimed at ending a nearly 50-year old conflict.

"We hope the government isn't thinking of kicking the table over," rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez, the number two FARC official, told reporters here.

"We call on the Colombian people to mobilize in defense of the peace process, and to not let this hope be snatched from us," Marquez said.

Rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Santos administration have been engaged in peace talks in Cuba since November.

Frustrated over a lack of progress in the negotiations, Santos on Saturday threatened to abandon the bargaining.

"As long as we make progress we'll be satisfied," Santos said at a public event in the department of Antioquia. "But if we do not make progress we'll leave the negotiating table."

Marquez said the president's remarks were "surprising", noting that the rebels have "presented more than 40 proposals to move the process forward."

The last attempt at a settlement collapsed in 2002 when the rebels used a Switzerland-sized demilitarized zone set aside as an encouragement for peace to regroup and rearm.

The FARC, with some 8,000 fighters, emerged in the 1960s in response to a yawning wealth gap between Colombian peasants and wealthy owners of huge haciendas, or estates.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130226/farc-rebels-urge-colombians-mobilize-peace