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Colombia: UNESCO Chief Hails Release Of Hostages

Colombia: UNESCO chief hails release of former presidential candidate

4 July 2008 - Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), today voiced his "immense relief" at the news of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other Colombian and American hostages who had been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In a press release issued in Paris, he said he shares "the joy and emotion of their families and all their compatriots."

Mr. Matsuura noted that Ms. Betancourt "became a symbol of resistance and courage throughout her imprisonment. Her behaviour, the constant dignity she displayed for six long years of captivity, inspire the deepest respect.

"All those who defend human rights rejoice at her rescue. I hope that this episode will mark a decisive step towards the freeing of all the other hostages still held by the FARC," he added.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson on Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warmly welcomed the hostages' release and called on FARC "to immediately and unconditionally release the remaining hostages, whose security is their responsibility. He urges the FARC and other groups to engage in dialogue with the authorities with a view to freeing hostages and ending the violence that has afflicted Colombia for so long."

ENDS

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