Colombia: Government and FARC Rebels to Sign Reparations Pact

Marcos Leon Calarcar, an international representative of Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces in Mexico, or FARC rebels, talks to Reuters in an interview February 23, 2002. REUTERS/Henry Romero

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels have reached a deal on reparations for war victims and could be near a pact on the terms of confinement for ex-combatants who would be tried in special tribunals once a definitive peace agreement is reached.

Any partial accords would help put peace talks back on track toward reaching a March 23 deadline for a comprehensive plan to end Latin America's longest war, which has killed 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964.

Representatives of both sides said on Monday they would hold a signing ceremony for victims on Tuesday, while the rebels said they would release long-awaited details of how to punish former combatants who lay down their arms.

"We are very pleased with this agreement (on victims) which no doubt is transcendental for what we are doing in this process," government spokeswoman Marcela Duran told reporters in Havana, site of the peace talks for three years.

FARC representative Marco Leon said the rebels would make public details on the justice talks, but it was unclear whether the two sides had a final agreement on the terms of punishment.

"With this important step, it is nearly certain that this is irreversible," Leon said of the peace process.

In September, the Colombian government and guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reached a breakthrough agreement to establish special courts to try former combatants, including guerrillas, government soldiers and members of right-wing paramilitary groups.

While attempting to offer as much amnesty as possible, the courts would reduce sentences for those who admit guilt and exclude from amnesty those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The agreement has caused consternation in Colombia, where critics complain FARC members might escape punishment or extradition to the United States, where some are wanted on drug-trafficking charges.