Filipino Rebels Wants Peace Talks in Egypt or Saudi Arabia
Philippine’s Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said on Sunday that the resumption of peace talks with the government should be in either Saudi Arabia or Egypt, which have expressed their intention of brokering negotiations to end decades of hostilities in Mindanao city, reported the Manila Times newspaper.
“Peace talks must be held in the Middle East -- either in Saudi Arabia or Egypt. These friendly countries have offered...to host the peace negotiations with the Philippine government,” said Shariff Julabbi, spokesman of MILF head Hashim Salamat Julabbi.
Earlier, President Gloria Arroyo suspended all military offensives against the MILF and opened new negotiations with the rebels, shortly after she was catapulted into power by a bloodless civilian-led revolt that ousted then president Joseph Estrada in January.
Estrada ordered a major assault against the MILF last year after rebel leaders failed to sign a peace agreement with the government.
“The MILF will stick to its original demand for independence because this is the aspiration of the Muslims in Mindanao -- an independent Islamic state, no less,” Jalabbi said, according to the paper.
He said backdoor negotiations continue between the government and MILF peace panels, and formal talks could start before the end of the year.
“We need to agree that all peace negotiations will be held in Saudi Arabia or in Cairo, which have offered to help broker the talks,” Julabbi added.
“The MILF really wants to have a lasting peace in the south. We do not want war...all we want is peace for the Muslims and a homeland for all the Muslims in the Philippines.”
Julabbi said the MILF will not accept any political offer, other than independence, from the Arroyo government.
In another development, Arroyo lifted on Sunday a state of rebellion proclaimed five days before, said reports.
Arroyo made her order effective midnight Sunday and said it would give Filipinos enough time to prepare for crucial elections scheduled to be held in May, said CNN.
Arroyo declared a state of rebellion Tuesday after supporters of Estrada marched to the presidential palace in what authorities said was an attempt to topple the government.
The state of rebellion, the first of the president's three emergency powers, gave the government greater power to end violent protests by allowing police to arrest people without a warrant, said CNN -- Albawaba.com
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