FARC weapons being surrendered at 'very fast rate'

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FARC weapons being surrendered at 'very fast rate'
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LA ELVIRA (Colombia) (AFP) - Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels handed in rifles and grenade launchers Tuesday in what were described as meaningful strides toward a deadline for a total surrender of arms within one week.

The weapons, including pistols, were given to UN officials as part of a deal to end a half-century of war. It was thought to be the first time the group's stowed weapons have been seen.

Around 60 percent of the FARC's weapons are due to be handed over by Wednesday, and the remainder -- to be stored at 26 sites around the country -- are due to be surrendered on June 20.

"Demobilization is being achieved at a very fast rate," President Juan Manuel Santos said.

The peace accord was reached in August last year but Colombian voters rejected it by a narrow margin in a referendum a few months later. Some argued the accord went too easy on the rebel force.

Santos and FARC leaders then drafted a new version before the government pushed it through Congress.

The Colombian conflict erupted in 1964 when the FARC and the ELN -- a smaller rebel group -- took up arms for rural land rights.

The violence drew in various rebel and paramilitary forces and drug gangs as well as state forces.

The conflict has left at least 260,000 people dead and displaced more than seven million, according to the authorities.

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