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Colombia to dissolve Congress before July 2

President Cesar Gaviria agreed Saturday to dissolve Congress and move up elections, bowing to demands of new political groups that want to break the hold of two longtime parties on the country's politics. Some lawmakers had threatened to violently oppose any attempt to unseat them, but others said Saturday they would abide by the agreement. The interior minister said new congressional elections would help the government's efforts to strike a peace with two guerrilla groups.

A national assembly rewriting the Colombian constitution will officially dissolve the two houses of Congress before July 2, under the agreement signed by Gaviria and representatives of the country's other main political forces. The Congress has been plagued by corruption in recent years.

The agreement stipulates new elections be held in October, two years ahead of schedule.

The new Congress would meet for the first time Feb. 2, 1992. Until then, a commission of 18 people elected by the constitutional assembly would act as a temporary legislature.

Two parties, the ruling Liberals and the Conservatives, had controlled the national legislature for years through machinery that included payments to regional political bosses. The constitutional assembly already voted to prohibit such payments and raise the ethical standards applied to legislators.

Saturday's accord is certain to benefit the country's new parties, especially the April 19 Movement, a former leftist guerrilla group.