( dpa )- If former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were to die in captivity, it would be "murder" by the leftist Colombian rebels who kidnapped her in February 2002, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Colombian television.
In an interview broadcast by RCN on Thursday, Sarkozy addressed Manuel Marulanda Velez, the top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), asking him to free Betancourt and the more than other hostages held by the rebel group.
According to Sarkozy, such a move would change the views of those who condemn FARC's activities and perhaps allow the group to be removed from lists of terrorists.
Bentancourt is the most high profile of the more than 700 hostages held by FARC and holds both French and Colombian citizenship. She has been reported to be ill.
"I am telling FARC boss, Manuel Marulanda, that (FARC) have on their shoulders the weight of responsibility for the life or death of a woman and that he has to evaluate perfectly the decision he is going to make. Because this woman is in life-threatening danger and could die in the coming days," he said.
"If he lets her die, it will mean he is responsible for a murder. If he releases her, it will mean he has made a humanitarian gesture, and that humanitarian gesture will necessarily provoke, trigger something else," Sarkozy said.
He recalled that Betancourt is a French-Colombian citizen and stressed that "the people of France are mobilized around their compatriot."
"She has lived in the jungle for six years. Her family, her children are asking for her return. She is currently in life- threatening danger. It is a national cause for France, which is not to say that it is not also necessary to release all the hostages unfairly kidnapped," Sarkozy noted.
"Perhaps thanks to the action of France six civilian hostages have been released," he said, referring to the release in the past two months of Betancourt's former vice presidential candidate, Clara Rojas, and five other former Colombian legislators who had been held by FARC for at least five years.
Sarkozy admitted that FARC number two Raul Reyes - killed Saturday by the Colombian military in Ecuadorian territory - was actively engaged in talks towards a hostage release.
"Mr Reyes was one of the spokesmen of FARC, but his death does not mean that there will be no discussion. FARC are on a list of terrorist organizations. FARC have to know whether they want to get out of that list or stay on it," he said.
"If they let Ingrid Betancourt die, of course there will be no discussion about that. If they release Ingrid Betancourt, perhaps a part of the world will look at them a bit differently," Sarkozy said.
"If Ingrid Betancourt is not released in a humanitarian framework they will never get off the list because, I insist, this would mean a murder in cold blood," he stressed.