BOGOTA Colombia's FARC rebel group will enter politics and seek alliances with other parties after it signs a peace deal with the government, the top guerrilla leader said on Sunday, despite rebel fears they may be targeted by right-wing armed groups.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have been in talks since late 2012 with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to end five decades of war.
"We will be in politics without arms," FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, said in an interview with local magazine Semana. "We will enter a political scenario where it will be fundamental to unite the largest number of forces possible to guarantee the deal is fulfilled.
"We will put our arms to one side and take up the political struggle."
Negotiators at the Cuba-based talks have reached deals on land reform, an end to illegal drug trafficking, guerrilla participation in politics, transitional justice, efforts to find missing persons and remove land mines.
A United Nations mission will supervise rebel disarmament once an accord is signed. The war has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.
Although rebel ranks support the peace talks, many fear they may be targeted by right-wing groups after a peace deal, Londono said.
Paramilitaries, sometimes with the aid of military officials, systematically assassinated 5,000 members of the left-wing Patriotic Union party in the 1980s, including two presidential candidates.
"A common question is: 'Comrade, will the same that happened to the Patriotic Union happen to us?' That is the fear," said Londono.
The FARC's political party could participate in 2018 legislative and presidential elections, he said.
All sectors of Colombian society, including fierce opponents like ex-President Alvaro Uribe, must commit to helping implement a peace deal, Londono said, adding: "Let's give Colombia a chance."
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Dan Grebler)