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Malaysian Peace Monitors Due Dec 15 in Philippines

A Malaysian team begins monitoring a ceasefire between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels from next Monday in what is seen as a key step towards ending a thirty-year insurgency. Formal talks to end a conflict that has killed at least 120,000 people in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation are inching closer under the auspices of Malaysia, a largely Muslim country, but a quick peace deal appears unlikely. The Philippine military said on Wednesday that an advance team of six Malaysian officers was due to arrive on December 15 to start overseeing a truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim rebel group with 12,000 fighters. “About 30 more observers are also expected to arrive in the Philippines in the coming days to form part of the main body of the monitoring team,” the armed forces said in a statement. Malaysia is close to the southern Philippines, the focal point of the insurgency and home to about half of the country’s eight million to nine million Muslims. The government in Manila is also battling communist rebels and other homegrown and regional Muslim guerrilla groups, but a peace agreement with the MILF would go a long way towards easing persistent investor concerns about security. Full Story

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