| GEO World|
| US denies ransom payout for hostage release: ambassador|
| Updated at: 0236 PST, Saturday, July 05, 2008|
BOGOTA: The United States government paid nothing for the release this week of 15 hostages held by leftist guerrillas in the Colombian jungle, the US ambassador to Bogota said on Friday.
Ambassador William Brownfield issued the denial in response to a radio report that the daring rescue of the hostages, including high-profile French Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans, was obtained with a 20 million dollar ransom payout.
"How much did we give ... for the release of the three North-American hostages? Zero ... Zero. Nothing. Not one dollar, not one peso, not one euro. Absolutely nothing," Brownfield told reporters.
The foreign radio reported that the bloodless release of the captives was obtained by paying 20 million dollars to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The hostages "were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up," the radio's French-language channel said.
Colombian military commander Freddy Padilla also denied that money was paid out, telling private radio that Colombia "did not pay a single cent."
The hostages were rescued Wednesday after Colombian soldiers disguised as rebels arrived at a FARC jungle hideout and said they had come to transport them by helicopter to another FARC location, officials said.