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Swiss help Colombia hostage operation

A Swiss representative is among an international delegation observing the handing over of hostages set to be released by Colombian rebels.

A Swiss foreign ministry spokesman said that Switzerland had been invited to take part by the Venezuelan authorities, which are playing a large part in the mission.

"Switzerland is acting with discretion [with the aim of] obtaining the release of the hostages and all of those who continue to be deprived of their freedom," Lars Knuchel told the Swiss news agency.

Switzerland has been working with France and Spain for several years to find a humanitarian solution to the conflict in Colombia, added Knuchel.

The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross said five of its delegates were ready to accompany the tree aeroplanes and two helicopters provided by Venezuela to fetch the hostages. The vehicles are to carry ICRC markings.

Colombian rebels said last week they would hand over two women and young child to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or his representatives.

They are among more than 40 high-profile captives the guerrillas want to swap for around 500 rebels in Colombian jails. The rebels are holding several hundred hostages in all.


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