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Colombia's govt, FARC rebels ended five-decade war, made final peace deal

Colombia's govt, FARC rebels ended five-decade war, made final peace dealColombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels reached a final peace deal on Wednesday to end a five-decade war which once took the resource-rich country to the brink of collapse.

Under the historic agreement to end one of the world's longest conflicts, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will lay down arms and reintegrate into civilian life.

More than 220,000 people were killed in the conflict, tens of thousands disappeared and millions fled their homes because of the violence.

The accord was reached after almost four years of talks in Cuba. It will now go to a plebiscite vote on Oct. 2.

"Today I can say - from the bottom of my heart - that I have fulfilled the mandate that you gave me," said President Juan Manuel Santos, 65, who was re-elected in 2014 on the promise of a peace deal. "Colombians: the decision is in your hands. Never before have our citizens had within their reach the key to their future," he said in a televised address.

Most opinion polls suggest Colombians will back the deal but Santos, who has staked his legacy on peace, will face fierce opposition from powerful sectors of the country who believe the only solution is to finish the FARC militarily.

The deal is opposed by two former Colombian presidents, including popular right-wing hardliner Alvaro Uribe.

Under the deal, the FARC will have non-voting representation in Congress until 2018 and can participate in elections.

From then on, the 7,000 former rebels will have to win votes like any other political party, Santos said.

The final text of the deal will be sent to Colombia's Congress on Thursday and will be available on the internet and social media, he said.

"We have won the most beautiful of all battles" lead FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez said following the announcement in Havana on Wednesday. "The war with arms is over, now begins the debate of ideas."

The two sides had signed a ceasefire in late June.
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