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Colombian rebel group declares cease-fire

HAVANA -- Colombia's main rebel group announced a unilateral cease-fire yesterday as it began much-anticipated peace talks, but the Bogota government responded that it would continue military operations.

Top negotiator Ivan Marquez said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would halt all attacks against government and private property starting at midnight yesterday and running through Jan. 20.

He made the announcement as negotiators for both sides entered the talks in Havana without other comment.

Hours later, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon told reporters in the Colombian capital that while the government hoped the FARC would keep its promise, "history shows that this terrorist organization has never kept its word." He added that Colombian security forces have "the constitutional duty to pursue all criminals who have violated the Constitution."

"As a result, the terrorists . . . are being pursued for all the crimes they have committed over so many years," said Pinzon, one of President Juan Manuel Santos' most trusted collaborators. -- AP

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