US general urges Colombian rebels to sign peace deal

US Marine General John F. Kelly (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte )

Washington (AFP) - A top US general urged Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels on Tuesday to sign a peace accord to end a decades-long civil war, saying they should "be smart, take the deal."

"If the FARC are smart, and they are generally not, but if they are smart they will see that now is the time to get the deal," said General John Kelly, commander of the US Southern Command.

"If they are listening, this one time in 50 years, be smart, take the deal," Kelly told the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies.

The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have reached agreements on three of the six items on their agenda since talks began in Havana in November 2012.

"The hardest thing for a country to do after 50 years of insurgence is end it," Kelly said. "They are working out some of the details, and I think they are very, very close.

Kelly said Colombians would be outraged at the rebels if they failed to reach a deal.

"If the FARC don't take the deal, the Colombian people will go after them with a vengeance, and put an end to this thing.

"They are very close to doing it because of the national leadership. The government has done a superb job putting sides together," he stressed.

The current negotiations between President Juan Manuel Santos's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest guerrilla group, have made the most progress so far toward ending the conflict.

As part of the two-year-old talks, victims of the conflict -- which has killed 220,000 people and caused more than five million to flee their homes -- are giving testimony in Havana in a bid to help the two sides reach a deal on reparations.

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