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Colombia army report says there was no spying on peace talks

Source: Reuters - Sat, 15 Feb 2014 02:42 GMT
Author: Reuters
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A Colombian police officer walks by a mural that reads "peace will exist without armies" in Toribio, in the southwestern department of Cauca February 6, 2014 REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga
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BOGOTA, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Peace talks between Colombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels were not spied on by military intelligence, the army's Inspector General said in a report on Friday that disputed such claims made by a weekly news magazine.

President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the investigation after a report by the respected magazine Semana said members of the military had intercepted the text messages of the government team negotiating with guerrilla representatives in Havana, Cuba.

The FARC has said separately that its own delegation was also spied on.

The investigation is preliminary to a full judicial inquiry into the spying allegations that will now begin.

The government has been involved in peace talks with the FARC for 15 months to seek an end to a conflict that mushroomed out of land conflicts five decades ago and that has gone on to kill more than 200,000.

Despite the magazine's allegations, the peace talks have continued undisrupted, and negotiators reported advances this week towards an agreement on tackling the drug trade, which the government says the FARC uses to fund itself.

Military personnel interviewed in the investigation ordered by President Juan Manuel Santos denied that illegal espionage took place at a Bogota restaurant with an adjoining Internet center from where the army had been carrying out legitimate intelligence work.

"The personnel manifested that at no time they carried out interception of communications. They were adamant that in the "facade" no illicit activities took place," said the report read on television by army Inspector General Ernesto Maldonado.

He said it was now up to other judicial authorities including the prosecutor's office and military justice to carry out their own investigations to determine the veracity of the information the army's brief inquiry had yielded.

The report concluded that there had been failures in the management of the intelligence gathering center that had compromised its secrecy and it recommended that six personnel involved with it be suspended pending further investigations. (Reporting by Peter Murphy and Monica Garcia; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Ken Wills)

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