From ......... Associated Press

November 17, 1994

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- President Ernesto Samper said Thursday he wanted to hold peace talks with leftist rebels to end a 30-year war that has killed 70,000 people.

Samper promised to guarantee the security of rebel negotiators in talks he said should be held abroad. He also vowed to disband rightist paramilitary groups, accused of assassinating hundreds of leftist politicians and members of demobilized rebel groups.

The announcement, made in the southwestern city of Popayan, represents the brightest hope in years that an end to the war is in sight.

But although the two biggest rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, have said they also want peace, many stumbling blocks remain.

Talks broke down in 1992 because the government believed the rebels were unwilling to disarm. Samper, who took office Aug. 7, warned he would not allow new talks to "be used to conduct armed proselytism."

Samper also said the media would be barred from attending talks. The insurgents have insisted talks be open to reporters.

Colombia is one of the world's most violent countries, afflicted with the globe's highest homicide rate and plagued by right-wing paramilitary groups, violent drug traffickers and guerrillas.

The state-oil company said Thursday that rebels had blown up part of the nation's largest oil pipeline in remote northeast Colombia two days earlier, spilling 4,000 barrels of crude and closing the pipeline for 48 hours.