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Colombian foreign minister resigns


Bogota : Colombia’s Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo, a former hostage of the leftist rebels, has stepped down after 17 months in the job, EFE news agency reported Friday.

The presidential palace press office, which did not disclose reasons for Araujo’s resignation, said Thursday he would be replaced by Jaime Bermudez, who until recently had served as the country’s ambassador to Argentina.

Bermudez will assume office next week, according to presidential palace sources.

Araujo, who had been a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for six years till he escaped in early 2007, succeeded in the same year Maria Consuelo Araujo who was sacked on allegations of links with the now demobilized rightist paramilitary militia.

Among the members of her family arrested for the alleged links was her brother, Alvaro Araujo, at that time a senator with a party allied with Uribe.

Though the reasons for Araujo’s resignation are unclear, political circles said the new foreign minister takes office to perform as consultant of President Alvaro Uribe for a possible referendum on the government.

Bermudez had served in such consultancy capacity in the past and remained very close to the president.

Among the pressing issues the new foreign minister will have to tackle are restoration of bilateral relations with Ecuador and Venezuela and refurbishing the globally deteriorating image of President Uribe.