Colombia's attorney general says he will not drop extradition warrants

FILE PHOTO: Colombia's President Gustavo Petro attends the session "Leadership for Latin America" during the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2023. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's attorney general will not drop arrest warrants aimed at extraditing drug-trafficking bosses and will only suspend them if Congress approves a law to allow these targets to surrender themselves, he said on Monday.

Attorney general Francisco Barbosa made the statement to journalists after meeting with President Gustavo Petro, who wants to build "total peace" throughout the country via peace negotiations or surrender deals with a plethora of illegal armed groups.

Petro's government has requested the suspension of arrest warrants for 16 leaders from these groups, including five sought for extradition mostly to the United States. Barbosa rejected that request saying warrants still stand legally.

Colombia has endured almost six decades of internal armed conflict, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

"There will be no lifting or suspension of arrest warrants for extradition by the nation's attorney general," Barbosa said after the two-hour meeting.

On New Year's Eve Petro decreed a bilateral ceasefire with criminal group the Clan del Golfo and two dissident factions of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, as well as a paramilitary group operating close to the Caribbean city of Santa Marta.

Just one of the FARC dissident groups is eligible to enter peace talks with the government, Barbosa said, ruling out the second group for having signed a 2016 peace deal and later abandoned it.

The second dissident group and the other armed groups must submit to a process of surrender, the attorney general said.

"Surrendering to justice cannot be swapped for a peace agreement," Barbosa said, adding that peace deals are only an option for rebel groups with a political or historical origin, as opposed to criminal origins.

The meeting between Petro and Barbosa was cordial, the president's office said in a statement, adding the two men discussed initiatives for building peace.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Josie Kao)

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