Colombia's Senate president asks gov't to suspend talks with drug traffickers

BOGOTA, March 6 (Reuters) - (This March 6 story has been refiled to remove the garble from paragraph 1)

The president of Colombia's Senate, Roy Barreras, asked the government on Monday to suspend negotiations with drug traffickers, adding that these talks negatively impact the Andean country's goal of implementing a policy of total peace.

Barreras, an ally of leftist President Gustavo Petro, made his request as the government faces a scandal which alleges that the president's brother and eldest son received money from accused drug traffickers looking to benefit from the total peace policy.

"I ask the government to suspend all kinds of official or unofficial dialogue, conversation or negotiation with drug traffickers," Barreras said at a press conference. "They aren't necessary and they harm the noble purpose of total peace."

The total peace policy is a bid by Petro to end the Andean country's almost six decades of internal armed conflict, which has left hundreds of thousands dead.

The attorney general has opened an investigation against the president's son Nicolas Petro Burgos and his brother Juan Fernando Petro in connection with the allegations which both men deny.

As part of his total peace policy, Petro is offering criminal gangs the chance to surrender to justice in exchange for reduced sentences if they hand over their earnings and reveal their cocaine trafficking routes.

Drug trafficking gangs will be able to surrender themselves to justice once the law presented by the government which will allow them to do so has been passed by Congress, Barreras said.

The president has restarted peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and is looking to begin separate negotiations with two dissident factions of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which signed a peace deal with the state in 2016.

Danilo Rueda, the government's High Commissioner for Peace, acknowledged "serious rumors" of lawyers entering negotiations with drug traffickers in connection with the total peace policy, but added that neither his office nor Petro have anything to do with the alleged illegal actions.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Lincoln Feast. Writing by Oliver Griffin

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