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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Colombia Braces for Hostilities As Talks Fail

LOS POZOS, Colombia -- President Andres Pastrana ended the Colombian peace process Saturday, saying an 11th-hour proposal from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia "is not sufficient."

"The proposal only refers to already agreed upon issues," Pastrana said in a nationally broadcast address.

Pastrana gave the rebel army, known as the FARC, 48 hours, beginning at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, to vacate the vast rebel safe haven he granted it three years ago as a condition for the peace talks.

Many feared the end of the peace talks could lead to an escalation in Colombia's 38-year civil war.

Pastrana appeared to leave a small window of opportunity for the FARC to come up with another last-minute proposal to save the peace process, saying the country will only accept peace talks if there is a cease in the hostilities.

But he left it up to the rebels to find a way to show that willingness.

"The FARC should not be mistaken, with a declaration that takes in this national desire, the [peace] process will be saved," he said. "Only a public manifestation in that sense can stop the clock."

The president had given United Nations envoy James LeMoyne until Saturday night to restart peace talks.

A few minutes after the deadline expired, FARC leaders released their proposal, which appeared to drop demands that the military immediately end flights over the safe haven and controls on its borders. The FARC walked away from peace talks in October after the military controls were initiated.

In the draft agreement, the FARC proposed that complaints of "threats" along its borders be examined by a special commission.

The government has refused to discontinue the overflights and has increased patrols, claiming the FARC is misusing the safe haven to hide hostages and run a drug business.

Earlier Saturday, a car bomb exploded near the wall of a military base a few kilometers north of the rebel haven, injuring 15 civilians, the army news agency reported. Troops had been arriving at the base in the town of Granada -- 160 kilometers from Bogota -- ahead of the deadline. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

Before the decision was announced, prayers for peace had been held in the Roman Catholic church in the safe haven's main town, San Vicente del Caguan -- 270 kilometers (169 miles) from Bogota. The church was packed with local politicians, firefighters, businessmen, ranchers, housewives and children carrying small white paper signs reading "Peace."

"In this crucial moment of the history of our country, we need tolerance," said the Reverend Miguel Angel Serna, who called for dialogue rather than fighting.

He lashed out at military leaders of both sides for waging a war that kills some 3,500 people every year.

"Good people -- humble farmers, humble rebel fighters and humble soldiers -- have died in combat, but not the big leaders," Serna said. "It is the good who fall."

Colombia's civil war pits the FARC and the smaller ELN rebel group against an illegal right-wing paramilitary force and government troops. The war is fueled by the drug trade, which the rebels and the paramilitaries tax to finance their fight.