The leader of Colombia's leftist FARC rebel group has denied that proposed negotiations with the government imply the guerrillas intend to surrender any time soon.
The statement on Thursday from Timoleon Jimenez, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), countered recent comments from President Juan Manuel Santos, who said the FARC sought peace after nearly a half-century of conflict.
"For our part, sitting down to talk does not indicate any kind of surrender or submission," said the statement from Jimenez, also known by the alias of Timochenko.
The statement - which was dated April 14 and posted on the website of the Anncol news agency - followed one allegedly signed by Timochenko last month which said he was ready to "begin working on reconciliation and peace".
Jimenez, who has led FARC since November 2011, accused Santos of a "double standard" for saying when he took office in August 2010 that he was willing to negotiate with FARC but later sending troops to attack guerrilla outposts.
The leader of Latin America's largest remaining guerrilla group said the rich-poor divide in Colombia needed to be one of the issues on the table for future talks.
In February, FARC leaders announced their decision to cease kidnapping for ransom as a form of combat - one of the conditions Bogota had set for talks.
The rebels also said they were willing to negotiate with the government.
This month, the guerrilla group released its last 10 police and military hostages, but FARC is believed to be holding more than 100 civilians in captivity.
Santos said FARC's decision to stop kidnappings for ransom was a positive step, but not enough, demanding the release of all rebel prisoners.
The FARC, founded in 1964, is believed to have about 9,000 fighters in mountainous and jungle areas of Colombia, according to government estimates.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|