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U.S. will help strengthen army to fight Abu Sayyaf

The United States has reaffirmed its commitment to help the Philippines deal with the Abu Sayyaf militants in the south as the venue for the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) 03-1 joint military training exercise remains undecided. “We’re pushing for strengthening the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the best way we can against terrorism and we do see a terrorist target there in the Abu Sayyaf,” said U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone. “We believe they (AFP) can finish off with certain specific inputs from us,” added Ricciardone, who was with defence and military officials for the Heroes’ Day celebration in Cabanatuan City, northern Philippines, yesterday. The U.S. official’s comments came as Maj. Gen. Joseph Weber, the U.S. 3rd Marine Division chief, is set to return to Manila to brief officials on what transpired in his consultations in Zamboanga City regarding Shoulder-to-Shoulder 03-1. “General Weber has been down in Zamboanga this past week talking with the people there, with the commanders and with some of the local people. He’ll be coming up here in the next day or two to brief Defence Secretary Angelo Reyes, undersecretaries Feliciano Gacis, Antonio Santos and myself, and see where we’re going on this,” Ricciardone said. Full Story

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