Something to Talk About

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LIMA, Peru: The four-week hostage crisis inched closer to resolution Wednesday when Peruvian rebels announced in a radio transmission that they are ready to meet with a government mediator about freeing the remaining 74 hostages. In the transmission, a man identifying himself as Tupac Amaru leader Nestor Cerpa stated that an accord on organizing a peace talks commission "should be addressed without any obstacles . . . so that the situation can be solved as soon as possible." While conceding that the talks were open to any issue, Cerpa also insisted that the negotiations focus on the rebels' chief demand of freedom for their hundreds of comrades in Peruvian prisons. While accepting the two negotiators proposed by the government -- the Red Cross and Archbishop of Ayacucho Juan Luis Cipriani -- the rebels said they want to add representatives of Guatemala and an unnamed European country to the negotiating team. The radio transmission also included remarks by a man who identified himself as Peruvian Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela, one of the hostages, who said that the remaining captives were all "healthy and in good spirits." Given the rebel demand of freedom for imprisoned Tupac Amaru members in return for the hostages' release, the overture's chances for success remain hazy. In a recent interview with TIME , Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, whose brother, Pedro, is among the hostages, gave no indication of backtracking from his refusal to trade prisoners for hostages, dismissing the Marxist band as "in extinction."