BOGOTA/HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebels said on Tuesday they are waiting for the government to allow a leftist politician to be involved in coordinating the release of a former U.S. marine kidnapped last month before setting him free.
President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to allow Piedad Cordoba, a former senator specifically requested by the FARC, to be involved in the release of American Kevin Scott Sutay, who was seized as he trekked across dangerous jungle in eastern Colombia.
"The ball is in the government's court, we have no interest in delaying or postponing the handover," said Rodrigo Granda, one of several FARC leaders who is in Havana negotiating an end to Colombia's five-decade conflict.
"The government should say when it's ready to send the commission we asked for," Granda told reporters.
The Marxist FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, repeated its call for Cordoba, a critic of Colombia's center-right government, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to coordinate Sutay's release.
As expected, Santos' refusal to let Cordoba take part in the release has started to complicate efforts to free Sutay, who defied police warnings in June not to venture out alone across the country.
Although Santos has not revealed why he will not permit Cordoba's involvement, he said last week that Sutay's release should not turn into a media show that bolsters the rebels' profile.
Cordoba has been involved in several previous high-profile FARC hostage releases.
On Tuesday, the FARC again declared Sutay a U.S. mercenary. Even though the guerrilla group pledged last year to stop kidnapping for ransom, it says it still has the right to capture people with military ties as "prisoners of war."
Although the 8,000-strong guerrilla group has been weakened by a decade-long U.S.-backed offensive, the kidnapping, together with a recent spate of heavy losses in combat, proves the FARC is still a force to be reckoned with.
(Reporting by Helen Murphy in Bogota and Nelson Acosta in Havana)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp