Betancourt’s kidnapper says he’s sorry

Image: Ingrid Betancourt
Kidnapped French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt in a photo reportedly taken by rebels and released by the Colombian government on Nov. 30. Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Colombian guerrilla who kidnapped former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt has written a letter to France's president saying he's sorry.

The 36-year-old Nolberto Uni Vega said he was "remorseful, especially for Dr. Ingrid." Betancourt is a dual French-Colombian citizen.

Uni met with reporters on Tuesday at a prison in central Colombia where he is serving 34 years for the abduction.

He gave the letter to a journalist for delivery to Betancourt's mother, who will pass it on to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Uni said Betancourt's 2002 kidnapping wasn't planned. He said she happened to pass through a checkpoint where rebels had a standing order to abduct any politicians.

Betancourt was campaigning for Colombia's presidency when she was kidnapped in 2002.

France called off a humanitarian mission Tuesday to treat and possibly free the ailing hostage after Colombian rebels said they wouldn't unilaterally release any more captives.

The rebel statement seemed intended to force Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to make the next move. It also leaves Betancourt and dozens of other high-profile hostages languishing in jungle prisons and makes the prospect of peace talks ever more remote.

France's Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday that there was no longer any reason to keep the mission by France, Spain and Switzerland in Colombia. A French government plane has been waiting on a Bogota airstrip for days with doctors hoping to reach Betancourt, who was said to be depressed and suffering from hepatitis C.