Colombia's president to allow peace deal to be debated in Congress

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday he will allow the new peace accord with Marxist FARC rebels to be debated in Congress before it is approved and passed into law.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a Presidential address in Bogota, Colombia, November 12, 2016. Colombian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

Colombia’s government this week published a revised peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a bid to build support to end a 52-year war, after the original draft was rejected last month in a referendum amid objections it was too favorable to the rebels.

Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his efforts to end the war, said he would first consult with the FARC leadership, but said he agreed with the revised agreement being discussed by lawmakers.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, who spearheaded opposition to the original accord, had asked that the new accord be discussed in Congress.

“I agree that the discussions should move to Congress, and we will do so next week, on Wednesday,” Santos said in a televised address.

He did not say how the new deal would be approved, but it seems likely it will be ratified in Congress rather than via another plebiscite.

“Approval is a very important step within the process, and we have listened with much attention to the opinions of those who say that Congress is the best route for approval,” Santos said.

More than 220,000 people have been killed during the half-century conflict and millions displaced as the government battled FARC, right-wing paramilitary groups and other Marxist rebels.

The expanded and highly technical 310-page new document made only small modifications to the original text, such as clarifying private property rights and detailing more fully how the rebels would be confined in rural areas for crimes committed during the war.

It did not include the biggest proposals made by those who rejected the deal, such as jail terms for rebel leaders and banning them from public office.

Santos wants to unite the divided nation behind the new accord after the original deeply split Colombians between those worried that the FARC would not be punished and others hopeful the deal would cement an end to violence.

Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Leslie Adler