WORLD

Colombian FARC hands over final batch of weapons

COLOMBIAN FARC HANDS OVER FINAL BATCH OF WEAPONS

The final weapons belonging to the FARC were handed over to the UN on Tuesday in a symbolic ceremony attended by President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel commander-in-chief Rodrigo Timoleon Londoño Echeverri.

"Guerrillas, once were members of the FARC, today are militants for hope for the people," said Londoño Echeverri. "The state and the guerrilla have agreed to no longer use violence to make politics," he said, as he ended with an optimistic tone. "Farewell to arms, farewell to war, welcome peace."

The ceremony in the Transitional Zone for members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Mesetas, Meta, south of Bogotá, was attended by 1,000 - 1,500 guests, including government ministers, representatives of the guarantor nations during the peace talks in Cuba -- Norway, Venezuela and Chile --and other groups.

"Today we put this absurd war behind us," said Santos. "Today is a special day where we replace words where once there were weapons and I can say that because of this momentous day it has been worthwhile being the President of Colombia."

At the end of next month, the UN will extract the secured containers of decommissioned weapons from their locations. These will then be used to create three monuments to peace in Colombia, the U.S. and Cuba.

The UN said it has registered "7,132 weapons, except from those which, as established in the agreement, will remain to provide security for the 26 transitional camps of the FARC guerrillas" until Aug. 1.

On that date, the FARC is expected to deliver a list to the government of properties belonging to it to allow victims of the conflict to benefit from the sale and redistribution of the lands.

A plan is also in the works to disclose to the UN by Sept. 1, the locations of the FARC's hidden caches of weapons in jungles.

"Today we can say that the UN has learned vital experience here in Colombia and can begin to apply it other parts of the world," the head of the UN mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, said Tuesday at the ceremony.

The location of the ceremony in Mesetas is where the FARC formed as a military and political entity.

Fifty-three years later, it is here where the rebel group, for so long locked in a damaging and tragic internal conflict with the Colombian state since 1964 and which has caused the deaths of more than 260,000 victims and displaced 7 million others, finally laid down their weapons.

Presidential elections are scheduled for next March and as stipulated in the peace accord signed last year, the FARC will receive five seats each in the Senate and Congress, helping to cement the group's evolution from a military to a political force.

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