Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Manila (Fides Service) – The Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Muslim separatist active in southern Philippines have resumed talks to explore the possibility of re-opening of the peace process. The talks are to prepare negotiations proper expected since July 2003 when a cease fire agreement was reached.
Representatives of the MILF and government will meet in Kuala Lampur. Malaysia offered to mediate the conflict in 2001 when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president of the Philippines.
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the talks will discuss the sending of a team of observers to Mindanao, led by Malay representatives, to monitor the treaty and remove suspicion that the MILF was involved in bomb blasts last year.
February will be a busy month for the government. It will also resume talks with another guerrilla formation the New Peoples Army pro-Communist group, which in this phase, before the elections next May, has been extorting money from candidates in various districts of the country.
Observers contacted by Fides say President Arroyo is accelerating efforts on the path of negotiations with the different rebel groups for political reasons. Ms Arroyo, finding herself according to surveys at a disadvantage compared to her adversary, actor Fernando Poe jr, is trying to win back support by working for national pacification.
(PA) (Fides Service 3/2/2004 lines 20 words 234)

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