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Colombian President Extends Cease-Fire With FARC In Bid To Save Peace Deal

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos makes the victory sign after voting in a referendum this month in Bogota, Colombia.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has extended a cease-fire with the Marxist FARC rebels until Dec. 31, as he tries to salvage a peace deal that was narrowly rejected in a nationwide referendum.

The agreement was intended to end the guerrilla war that has dragged on for more than 50 years and killed more than 220,000 people, as John Otis reports for NPR from Bogota. He adds:

"After four years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the rebel group known as the FARC last month signed a peace agreement.

"But it was rejected by Colombian voters, many of whom despise the guerrillas. Now, President Santos and opposition politicians are discussing modifications that would place tougher conditions on the FARC."

Santos announced the cease-fire extension in a televised address Thursday after meeting with student leaders who supported the peace accord.

"One of the students reminded me that in the army and in the guerrilla ranks, there are young people waiting to see what happens, hoping that they don't need to fire another shot," he said, according to the BBC. "For that reason, and at the request of the students, I have taken the decision to extend the ceasefire until 31 December."

He added that this is meant to "keep the peace in the countryside," but he hopes a new peace deal will be announced long before the cease-fire expires, as Otis reports.

When Colombian voters unexpectedly rejected the deal, it plunged the country into a period of uncertainty. The Associated Press laid out some of the immediate challenges:

"Former President Alvaro Uribe, who led opposition to the accord, is demanding deep changes such as stiffer penalties for rebels who committed war crimes. Meanwhile the rebels, who would be spared jail time under the accord, are insisting they won't go back to the drawing board and throw out more than four years of arduous negotiations with the government."

Santos was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the decades-long civil war. As The Two-Way reported, the award "notably excludes any leaders of the FARC guerrilla group, the other side of the negotiating table." The prize committee described the award as a tribute to the Colombian people and their desire for peace.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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