RealNews

Talks with Philippine Rebels May Start Next Week

Peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels may restart as soon as next week, an official from the war-torn island of Mindanao said, but the guerrillas insisted on Thursday that troops must pull back first. Ending the 31-year separatist conflict that has killed at least 120,000 people would go far in burnishing the image of the Philippines in the eyes of foreign investors and companies seeking to tap Mindanao’s agricultural and mineral wealth. Malaysia has again offered to act as host and broker of the talks between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation, that have been stalled since late 2001. A cease-fire is holding on Mindanao but Kuala Lumpur has yet to issue the formal invitation. Philippine government officials had said the talks were expected to restart in mid-August. “We should get the letter by next week,” Mahid Mutilan, vice governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, was quoted as saying by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper. Neither of the two government officials most involved in the peace process, negotiator Eduardo Ermita and presidential adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza, could be reached for comment. Full Story

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