Pope welcomes Colombia ceasefire, declines Vatican role

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis on Wednesday welcomed the end of Colombia's war with the FARC rebels but declined an invitation to help establish a court to prosecute atrocities committed during the conflict.

Francis, the first pontiff to come from Latin America, had been asked to appoint a representative to a five-person panel entitled the Special Peace Jurisdiction, which will be charged with trying and sentencing individuals accused of committing war crimes during the 52-year conflict.

Francis "was pleased to learn that negotiations have been finalised between the government and FARC," the Vatican said in a statement.

"He reiterates his support for the goal of attaining the peace and reconciliation of the entire Colombian people, in light of human rights and Christian values, which are at the heart of Latin American culture," it added.

The pope noted the invitation to name a representative to the legal panel but said that "bearing in mind the universal vocation of the Church, ... it would be more appropriate that the said task be entrusted to other parties."

The Special Peace Jurisdiction was supposed to have five members -- three Colombians and representatives appointed by the pope and by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The ceasefire in Colombia came into effect on Monday, and the government and the FARC are due to sign a peace agreement in September which will then be put to a referendum on October 2.

The conflict has claimed 260,000 lives since 1964.