HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels declared a pause in peace talks on Friday to take time to study a bill proposed by President Juan Manuel Santos that would call a referendum on any agreements that would bring an end to the five-decade conflict.
This is the first interruption in talks that began in November. Even as the FARC has been severely weakened in the last 10 years by a heavy military offensive, it remains a formidable threat to the government.
"We need to focus exclusively on analyzing the implications of the government's proposal," negotiators of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in a statement in Havana, where the talks are being held.
Santos on Thursday sent a bill to Congress that would allow a popular vote on any peace accord during national elections next year.
The FARC has appeared irritated in recent weeks with comments from Santos, who told Reuters that the rebel leadership could face jail terms if peace is achieved. He also said FARC negotiators would need to return to Colombia's jungle and face capture or a battle death if talks collapse.
(Reporting by Cuba newsroom; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Vicki Allen)