Colombia high court approves plebiscite for peace accords

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian high court on Monday ruled in favor of using a plebiscite to approve a peace deal being negotiated with Marxist FARC rebels that seeks to end more than five decades of war.

Negotiators for President Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have said they will abide by a popular vote that would accept or reject peace agreements made over almost four years of talks.

A final peace accord could be signed in a question of weeks and the vote held by year-end.

The constitutional court decision would allow the accords to be approved with 13 percent, or 4.4 million, of the electorate and would be a response to one question. Some 33 million of Colombia’s almost 49 million population are eligible to vote.

Santos’s decision to ask Colombians to respond to one question, with a yes or no answer, drew considerable criticism, especially from former president and now opposition Senator Alvaro Uribe, who argued that it does not allow voters to reject specific aspects of the peace agreement.

The government and FARC have been hammering out accords in Havana on agricultural reform, FARC participation in politics and dismantling the illegal drugs trade among other issues that Santos hopes will allow the rebels to hand in their weapons.

Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Bill Rigby