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Talks with rebels begin on high note

Optimism over peace process with Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Talks with rebels begin on high note
MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim Al Haj speaks during a consultation with members
Mach Alberto Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City
Philippines

February 8, 2011

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The Philippine government's chief peace negotiator with a Muslim rebel group is optimistic that a "politically negotiated settlement" can be reached within a year. Lawyer Marvic Leonen, however, said the one-year period is not a deadline for an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). "Realities" of political negotiations and "unforeseen events" should allow the negotiating parties some room to adjust. Leonen, meanwhile, said the government is “seriously concerned” with the split in the MILF leadership after Ameril Umbra Kato, one of the rebel group's leaders, reportedly left the organization and set up a new armed group. Leonen said it will "endanger our ceasefire mechanisms" and the existence of another armed group "may significantly put in question the ability of the current leadership of the MILF to deliver on any commitment." Renewed talks between the Philippine government and the MILF will start on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur. Negotiations, which started in 1997, hit a snag in 2008 after the Supreme Court barred the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the two parties that would have allowed for the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Related reports Filipino opinion over peace talks divided Civilian groups to form ‘peace constituency’ PM13199.1640
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