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Freed hostage to be reunited with young son

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  • Colombian president promises to bring family together "rapidly"
  • Baby, taken away from captive mother, has been in foster care
  • Venezuela's president arranged release of mother, another hostage Thursday
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(CNN) -- A woman who was held hostage for nearly six years in Colombia waited Friday for a dramatic reunion with her 3-year-old son.

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Former hostage Clara Rojas, right, reunites with her mother, Clara Gonzalez de Rojas.

Clara Rojas gave birth to a boy, fathered by one of the rebels, two years after she was taken hostage.

The rebels took the infant away from her when he was 8 months old. Three years have passed since Rojas last saw her son; he's nearly 4 and in the custody of Colombia's child-welfare agency.

When Rojas was freed on Thursday, she strode into a jungle clearing and climbed aboard a helicopter with a photo of her son dangling from her neck.

"The boy is named Emanuel, but he is a gift from God," she later told Caracol Radio in Colombia. "He was the smallest and sweetest thing."

The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, holds about 750 hostages, according to Colombian government estimates. On Thursday, the FARC freed Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, a former Colombian congresswoman, in a mission organized by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Video Watch the joyous arrival of the freed hostages »

Rojas said she wanted to see her son as soon as possible, and it looks as if she will get her wish.

President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia told reporters that his government will soon relinquish custody of the boy to Rojas, a former vice presidential candidate. She was taken hostage on February 23, 2002, as she managed the presidential campaign of Ingrid Betancourt, who remains in rebel hands.

"In a conversation with Clara Rojas," Uribe said, "she asked me about Emanuel with the anguish of a mother and the eagerness of a mother."

Mother and son will be reunited "rapidly," he said, according an account on a Colombian government Web site.

Two Red Cross helicopters picked the women up Thursday morning from a jungle site in southeastern Colombia identified by the FARC. They were first taken to the border town of Santo Domingo, where they were transferred to a jet, which took them on the final leg of their flight to freedom.

Gonzalez and Rojas arrived in Venezuela Thursday afternoon at Simon Bolivar International Airport, where dozens of their friends and family carrying flowers clapped and embraced them. Photo See the smiles and hugs »

An animated Rojas kissed her white-haired mother and gazed into her eyes. Gonzalez embraced her daughter and a small child who appeared too young to have been alive when she was last free.

They were taken to the presidential palace, where Chavez embraced them repeatedly.

Their release raised hopes of a deal that could free other hostages in the FARC's custody. "Liberty for everyone!" read several T-shirts worn by the released women's relatives.

Chazez on Friday called for FARC and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, to be removed from the European Union's list of terrorist organizations.

In his State of the Union speech, Chavez said the two groups were only on the European list because of U.S. pressure.

He argued: "I say this even though somebody might be bothered by it: the FARC and the ELN are not terrorist groups. They are armies, real armies ... that occupy a space in Colombia."

Chavez said his nation is committed to bringing about peace in Colombia, a task that means "we must continue to work at the various levels" with FARC and ELN. "No one should be bothered by it. It is absolutely essential to do so. Who can think of the possibility of a peace accord when there is no contact with the parties involved?"

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Late last month, the FARC struck a deal with Chavez to release Gonzalez, Rojas and Rojas' son. But the deal fell apart on New Year's Eve. The FARC blamed it on Colombian military activity, but the Colombian government said the FARC was forced to call it off because the rebels didn't have Emanuel in custody; the boy had actually been in foster care in Bogota for two years.

The FARC has sought to overthrow the Colombian government since the late 1960s. It has justified hostage-taking as a legitimate military tactic in the long-running and complex civil war. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.

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