Morales urges Colombian rebels to lay down arms

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LA PAZ, Oct 10 (Reuters) Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, urged Colombian rebels to lay down their weapons and seek ''a democratic and cultural revolution'' through peaceful means.

Morales is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has taken on the role of mediator between the Marxist FARC rebels and the Colombian government to try to secure the release of hostages held for years in rebel camps.

''I think many people are right to take up arms, but now is not the time to take up arms. How great it would be if Colombia's FARC gave up their weapons and led a democratic and cultural revolution like our countries,'' Morales said after meeting a group of former Cuban Communist guerrillas.

''Past decades were decades of dictatorship ... now we're in other times,'' Morales told a news conference yesterday.

Washington brands the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a terrorist group engaged in Colombia's huge cocaine trade.

Reuters TB VP0558

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