Manila to hold peace talks with rebels

The Philippines will hold peace talks with separatist rebels in Malaysia next month, it was announced on Tuesday.

    Fighting has been raging in southern Philippines for the last three decades

    The Philippine government has agreed to hold "a new round of exploratory talks" with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala

    Lumpur "by the second week of February", President Gloria Arroyo said after talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Abd Allah Ahmad Badawi in


    "The talks will strive to resolve outstanding issues and advance the overall climate of peace," Arroyo told a joint press conference with

    Abd Allah.

    She praised Malaysia for its role in mediating the peace talks with the MILF, which has been fighting for nearly three decades to set up a

    separate Islamic state in the southern third of the largely-Roman Catholic Philippines.

    President Arroyo is seeking a political settlement with the 11,900-member MILF before a 10 May presidential election, in which she is

    seeking another six-year term in office.

    The MILF has rejected allegations it provided training and sanctuary to foreign militants from Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the deadly

    Bali bombing in 2002 and other attacks across Southeast Asia.

    Abd Allah said the MILF would soon be informed of their decision to hold the talks, adding "it is our intention that we want to move the

    peace process forward".

    "It is our intention to see that peace has been secured," in the southern Philippines, near the maritime border with Malaysia, he added.



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