The Medellin cocaine cartel says hundreds of its members are willing to accept a government offer not to extradite them if they turn themselves in. But the members still refused to confess to crimes.

A cartel statement Thursday to President Cesar Gaviria also said the members wanted special protection and would be willing to stay in a special compound guarded by the army.The traffickers' statement did not indicate if the offer to surrender applied to Pablo Escobar, the Medellin cartel's leader.

Such a surrender by between 200 and 300 cartel members "implies the end of all activities related to drug trafficking or narcoterrorism," the statement said.

The government, seeking to end a 15-month-old war with drug traffickers that has left more than 500 people dead, responded to the communique by extending an olive branch.

Justice Minister Jaime Giraldo outlined a series of legal guarantees drug traffickers would enjoy if they surrendered.

In September, Gaviria offered to prohibit extraditions and reduce jail sentences of drug traffickers who surrendered and confessed their crimes.

In Thursday's statement, the traffickers were apparently accepting Gaviria's offer, with conditions.

These included traffickers' request that they not be required to confess, as the Gaviria offer demands. They said such confessions would constitute self-incrimination, "prohibited even in the United States."

"A confession of all crimes committed is not required, just some of them," said Justice Minister Giraldo.

He said surrendering drug traffickers "can be sure they will not be extradited."

The traffickers said they would expect, upon turning themselves in, special army protection and vigilance by international human rights organizations.