Betancourt Husband Looks For Clues

SAN JOSE DEL GUAVIARE, Colombia (AP) -- The husband of hostage Ingrid Betancourt vowed Wednesday to plunge off into jungle villages to hunt for clues to her situation following the failure of government-backed effort to aid her.

"I want to talk to the people ... to see if she is alive or not, what her state of health is," Juan Carlos Lecompte said after he landed in San Jose del Guaviare, a steamy provincial capital in eastern Colombia.

Lecompte told reporters he would drive to outlying villages to seek information. He said he had come to learn about her situation, but has not had any contact with the leftist rebels holding her.

There have been unconfirmed sightings of Betancourt in the area, where the rebels, far-right death squads and cocaine producers are common.

A citizen of both France and Colombia, Betancourt was campaigning for Colombia's presidency when she was kidnapped in 2002.

Former hostages who spent time with Betancourt say they believe she has hepatitis B and suffers from depression.

"Her physical condition is extremely weak and it's true that she suffers from liver problems. But we don't know if she has hepatitis," said her ex-husband, Fabrice Delloye, to Associated Press Television News in Paris on Wednesday.

Chances of a quick release seemed remote after leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rejected a request by France, Switzerland and Spain to treat and possibly rescue her.

In a statement posted on the Internet on Tuesday, the FARC said it would not unilaterally release hostages and would only exchange Betancourt and other captives for rebels imprisoned in Colombia and the U.S.

The FARC also insists that President Alvaro Uribe demilitarize jungle zones in southwestern Colombia where the two sides could hold talks and eventually swap prisoners for hostages. Uribe has been equally insistent that he will not do so.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Paris will not abandon efforts to free Betancourt and that he planned to travel to the region soon.

The French government jet carrying the delegation that tried to meet with Betancourt remained on an airport tarmac in Bogota on Wednesday. The delegation was planning to return to France shortly.


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