Colombia rebels make new demands at peace talks

The FARC rebel delegation at Colombian peace talks on Wednesday called for ending what it labeled Bogota's neoliberal economic policy as the insurgents made new demands.

The leftist guerrillas waging Latin America's longest-running insurgency also proposed tax reform, the drafting of a new constitution and guarantees for farmers and other rural people to be involved in shaping policy.

The demands appeared aimed at addressing the social and economic roots of the decades-old conflict, which began in the 1960s as a peasant revolt against wealthy landowners.

There was no immediate comment from the government side at the talks, which began in Cuba in November. The new proposals were read out by the head of the guerrilla delegation, Ivan Marquez.

Government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said Tuesday -- as the talks resumed after a month's recess -- that economic policy was not up for discussion.

"We are clear about our respect for foreign investment and private property," he said.

Until now the discussions have been centering on the issue of land reform, although the rebels have suggested some 100 other measures over the course of the peace talks.

Land distribution, or the lack of it, was one of the main causes of the conflict in Colombia, where there is a huge gap between wealthy landowners and impoverished peasants.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is the country's largest leftist guerrilla group and has been at war with Bogota since 1964.

The group has an estimated 8,000 fighters but has suffered a string of military defeats in recent years.