Death squads to reduce attacks


Bogota - Colombia's ultra-right death squads pledged to scale back attacks on their Marxist rebel rivals and left-wing sympathisers in an attempt to win a place at peace talks to end the country's long-running civil conflict.

The so-called United SelfDefence Forces of Colombia (AUC) also offered to pull out of an area of northern Bolivar province to allow the government to launch peace talks with Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The offers, contained in an open letter to President Andres Pastrana, came after a month-long wave of massacres across northern Colombia in which the illegal paramilitary gangs killed more than 60 peasants.