Colombia's Farc 'to request ceasefire' in peace talks

Farc commander Mauricio Jaramillo attends a news conference on Tuesday at the Convention Palace in Havana Mauricio Jaramillo said Farc were "fully committed" to a process ending in the surrender of arms

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Colombia's Farc rebel group says it will request a ceasefire once peace negotiations begin with the government.

High-ranking commander Mauricio Jaramillo told reporters in the Cuban capital, Havana, that the group wanted to disarm if conditions were right.

The truce demand could be a sticking point as the government has insisted military operations against the rebels will continue despite the talks.

They are scheduled to open in Oslo, Norway on 8 October.

The ground-breaking talks - the first direct negotiations in a decade - will then move to Cuba.

The government delegation to the talks will be led by former Vice President Humberto de la Calle and include former heads of the armed forces and police, a business leader and the peace commissioner.

The last attempt to end the five-decade-old conflict resulted in failure 10 years ago.

Jailed members

Mauricio Jaramillo - known as "the doctor" - said Ivan Marquez and Jose Santrich would be among those representing the Farc, with others to be announced later.

The Farc delegation now in Havana is led by Mauricio Jaramillo, a commander from the militant group's secretariat. Their rare press conference lasted over an hour and all six members appeared in civilian clothes.

They brought a second video statement from Farc leader "Timochenko" full of images and references to a long fight for "social justice", as the Farc describes the last 48 years of violence. He said drawing up the road map for talks took six months of "frank exchanges" with the government.

One Farc member said they would not leave the negotiating table until there was a "happy result" for the Colombian people - though he warned that a lasting peace would not be forged overnight.

At least one potential sticking-point is already clear: Mauricio Jaramillo revealed that the Farc will call for a bilateral ceasefire as soon as talks start. President Santos has stressed that military operations will continue.

Ivan Marquez is on the group's six-person ruling secretariat, while Jose Santrich is a second-tier leader, reports said.

Farc were "fully committed" to a process that could culminate in the surrender of arms and the demobilisation of forces, he said.

But he added: "We're going to propose a ceasefire immediately when we sit at the table. We have always wanted peace."

He denied the Farc was involved in drug trafficking and also declared the group was no longer in the business of kidnapping.

The rebel commander confirmed that the Farc was also seeking the inclusion of two members in jail in the US - Simon Trinidad and his partner Sonia - on its negotiating team.

Simon Trinidad - real name Ricardo Palmera - was given a 60-year sentence in 2008 in connection with the kidnapping of three US intelligence operatives in 2003.

"Simon Trinidad is the symbol of dignity of the people's fighters of our America" who had been imprisoned "simply for their political position", Mauricio Jaramillo said according to Colombian news site El Heraldo.

He urged the government to take steps to allow him to be present around the negotiating table - but in comments apparently referring to this request, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos later said the peace process had to be "realistic", reported news agency Efe.

Five decades of conflict

1964: Farc founded, aim to install Marxist regime

1990s: Farc now fighting paramilitary groups as well as troops. Increasingly involved in drugs trade

1999: President Pastrana demilitarises vast zone to facilitate peace talks

Feb 2002: Peace process breaks down. Farc rebels seize presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt

Aug 2002: Alvaro Uribe elected president. Vows hard line against rebels

Mar 2008: Senior rebel leader Raul Reyes killed, Farc founder Manuel Marulanda dies of natural causes

July 2008: Betancourt and 14 other high-profile hostages freed in military raid

Sep 2010: Farc military chief Jorge Briceno killed

Nov 2011: Top Farc commander Alfonso Cano killed

Feb 2012: Farc announces end of kidnapping for ransom

Talks criticised

President Santos has stressed that there will be no ceasefire - and on Wednesday officials said a top Farc commander had been killed in an air strike.

Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said a rebel known by the alias "Danilo Garcia" and at least two others were killed in a joint operation by the air force, police and army.

The Colombian government is under pressure from some quarters not to make concessions on security in order to talk to Farc.

In an interview with BBC Mundo, former president Alvaro Uribe criticised the peace initiative as "beginning with security already weakened, the state weakened and terrorism resurgent.

Without referring to Mr Uribe by name, President Santos reiterated that military operations would not end until there were real advances towards peace.

"Let no one tell us we are weakening security, when the only thing we have done is strengthen it," he said.

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