Popularity of Colombia's Uribe soars after rescue

BOGOTA, July 6 (Reuters) - Colombian President Alvaro Uribe could easily win a third term in office as the popularity of the U.S.-backed leader shoots to over 90 percent after the dramatic rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, a poll said on Sunday.

Seventy-nine percent of those questioned in the Ipsos-Napoleon Franco poll, commissioned by the El Espectador daily newspaper and released in Sunday's edition, said they would vote for the conservative leader, up from 69 percent in the previous poll taken days before the rescue.

The Andean country was captivated by Wednesday's rescue of French-Colombian politician Betancourt, three American defense contractors and 11 Colombian soldiers and police officers in a daring operation carried out by state intelligence agents.

The hostages had been held for years by leftist rebels.

Uribe's popularity jumped to 91 percent from a previous 73 percent, according to the survey of 1,204 people. The poll had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Uribe, elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 after the constitution was changed to allow him a second consecutive term, is leaving open the possibility of another change in the law that would allow him to try for a third term.

The government was rocked last month when the Supreme Court said that a former lawmaker was bribed into supporting the original re-election amendment.

Uribe reacted to the ruling by accusing the court of being biased against him. He is calling for a rerun of the 2006 vote to affirm his mandate. (Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Eric Beech)