A Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, spokesman said that upcoming peace talks with the government will not be derailed over the issue of whether senior guerrilla Simon Trinidad - behind bars in the United States - is allowed to participate as a negotiator.

"For the tranquility of all friends of peace, we don't think this is a matter that will break this (process) that's just beginning," Marco Calarca, whose real name is Luis Alberto Alban, told Colombia's RCN radio in an interview from Havana.

The rebel, one of the FARC's "international" commanders, said the guerrilla group's request for Trinidad's inclusion in the talks will have to be evaluated with Colombian government delegates "once the talks formally begin."

Colombia extradited Trinidad in 2004 to the United States, where he is serving a 60-year prison sentence in connection with the capture of three U.S. military contractors held captive by the FARC.

"The issue of Simon at the (negotiating) table is a decision of the FARC and we'll have to agree on the forms, the manners, at the table and it's not good to move up the discussions, or remove them from the places where they belong," Calarca said.

Separately, Calarca said the FARC welcomes international delegates who can contribute their perspective to the peace talks, which are set to get underway on Oct. 8 in Oslo and later move to Havana.

"We don't have any problem with guests from other countries and dignitaries coming to the table; in fact, that's been our proposal and it's part of the accord that other countries or dignitaries be invited to the table and push this peace process along," Calarca said.

President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday in regard to the possible presence of Trinidad as a negotiator that both sides must be "realistic."

"There are things that can be done and other that can't. That's important to understand in this process," the president added.

The accord establishing a framework for the peace process was signed on Aug. 26 in Havana after six months of secret exploratory discussions on the communist-ruled island under the auspices of the Cuban and Norwegian governments.

Former Vice President Humberto de la Calle will head the Colombian government's negotiating team in the peace talks.

FARC representatives said in a press conference Thursday in Havana that the rebels' negotiating team will be led by Ivan Marquez, a member of the group's political leadership, and Jesus Santrich, who is part of the guerrilla military command.

The FARC's Mauricio Jaramillo said the rebels also will ask that Trinidad be permitted to take part in the negotiating process.

That request sparked controversy in Colombia, as did the guerrillas' assertion that they no longer are holding anyone captive after 10 soldiers and police officers - the last of a group the rebels had once proposed exchanging for hundreds of jailed rebels - were released in April.

The FARC also is believed to be holding dozens or even hundreds of ordinary people captive, although the precise number is unknown.

The guerrilla group's high command announced in February that the rebels would cease abductions for ransom.

Santos said earlier this week that the forthcoming negotiations will focus on rural development and improved access to land; security guarantees for the political opposition and activists; an end to armed conflict and the full demobilization of the guerrillas; the problem of drug trafficking; and the rights of victims of both the rebels and the security forces.

The new peace process differs from earlier failed attempts, according to the president, in that it will unfold outside Colombia.

The most recent negotiations, during the 1998-2002 government of President Andres Pastrana, took place in a demilitarized area of southern Colombia - dubbed "Farclandia" - and collapsed amid mutual recriminations.

Santos' decision to talk peace with the FARC is supported by 60 percent of Colombians, according to a Gallup poll released Sunday, while the smaller ELN insurgency has expressed an interest in joining the process.

The loudest criticism of the venture has come from Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, who called the peace process "a slap in the face to democracy."

The FARC has battled a succession of Colombian governments since 1964. The insurgency swelled to nearly 20,000 fighters in the early 2000s, but now numbers around 8,500 combatants.

Colombia's armed forces, bolstered by billions of dollars of aid from the United States, have scored dramatic successes against the FARC in recent years, but the rebels remain capable of inflicting significant damage on the military and on vulnerable infrastructure.

EFE