Reuters International

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's leftist ELN rebels on Monday asked the government to agree to a bilateral ceasefire amid peace talks in honour of a September visit by Pope Francis.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, which was founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, said a ceasefire would improve negotiating conditions at peace talks with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos taking place in Ecuador.

"We propose receiving Pope Francis in September with a bilateral ceasefire, to give more strength to the process of talks," the ELN said in a statement. "It would be most appropriate to agree immediately to a ceasefire."

"President Santos, you have the floor," the group added.

The ELN said last month it does not anticipate a peace deal in time for 2018 presidential and legislative elections.

Pope Francis will visit four cities during a visit beginning Sept. 6.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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