Colombia, FARC to sign peace deal after rebels' conference

Bogota (AFP) - The Colombian government and FARC rebel group will sign a peace agreement after the guerrillas hold a final internal conference to approve the historic deal, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday.

"The signing will officially take place after the (tenth) FARC conference, where they will receive the mandate (from their troops) to also sign," he said at the presidential palace after a meeting with political leaders.

The conference of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is set to take place before Colombians also vote to approve the deal in a popular referendum greenlighted by the country's constitutional court last month.

The government and FARC are in the final phase of four years of talks that it is hoped will result in a peace deal putting to an end a half-a-century of conflict.

The rebels last month signed a ceasefire and disarmament deal with the government, with the aim of becoming a political party.

It would take "around 15 days to three weeks" between the time the final agreement is agreed and the rebels approve it, Santos said.

The guerillas' conference would be their last before their dissolution, the president said, because "the peace agreement ending the conflict means the end of the FARC as an armed group."

The previous FARC conferences, held periodically since the group's inception in 1964, have been called to discuss new policies.

Negotiators for the two sides meeting in Havana have yet to decide how judges presiding over a special tribunal to hear cases about those involved in the conflict will be elected.

They must also determine how and when former rebels will be able to take part in politics, as well as work out their reintegration into civilian life and the scope of an amnesty, among other issues.

The sides have already reached partial agreement on agricultural development, drugs trade and reparation to victims.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, who is leading the "No" referendum vote campaign, said on Wednesday that the deal would give the guerillas "total impunity."

However, analysts say some 70 percent of voters support "Yes."

The Colombian conflict started in the 1960s as a rural uprising for land rights that spawned the communist FARC.

It has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures.