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Colombia, outlawed paramilitary agree to deal


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Colombia
U.S. State Department
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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- The leaders of an outlawed, far-right paramilitary group have agreed to lay down their arms and move to a small town in northern Colombia, where they will be watched by international observers, a government spokesman said Thursday.

The leaders of the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, will move to Santa Fe de Ralito, where their movements will be monitored by observers from the Organization of American States for a trial period of six months, said Ricardo Galan, the spokesman.

After that period, the program will be evaluated and a decision made whether to extend it, he said.

News of the accord came 20 days after the disappearance of Carlos Castaņo, the leader of the 20,000-member AUC, Galan said.

The talks between the paramilitary group and the government that led to the agreement almost broke down after Castaņo's disappearance.

Details were to be released at a news conference scheduled to take place Thursday evening in Bogota.

The AUC is based in northern Colombia, where its chief supporters -- landowners and drug traffickers -- are concentrated.

The U.S. State Department has declared the group a terrorist organization. It is accused of attacking leftist guerrillas and civilians it suspects of being leftist.

From Journalist Fernando Ramos.


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