Philippine Peace Talks with Abu Sayyaf to Begin in Libya on June 20
Peace talks between the government and the main Muslim separatist group in the Philippines will begin in Libya on June 20, President Gloria Arroyo's adviser on the peace process said Wednesday.
Arroyo has approved a "shifting venue" for the talks, which will begin in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Eduardo Ermita said without elaborating.
Government negotiators are "getting ready to leave for Tripoli to be there for the opening of negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," he told a news conference.
The 12,500-strong MILF, the country's main Muslim group, is waging a 23-year-old rebellion for the establishment of an independent Islamic state in the southern third of the Philippines.
There had been concerns that the peace talks could be derailed after the military accused the MILF of providing sanctuary to the smaller Abu Sayyaf group.
MILF leaders denied the accusation, saying they had no organizational links with the Abu Sayyaf, who are holding three Americans and 25 Filipinos as hostages on the southern island of Basilan.
They claim to have killed one of the Americans, but no evidence has been found.
The Libyan government last year helped broker the freedom of dozens of foreigners and locals in a similar hostage crisis involving the Abu Sayyaf.
It offered to help Manila this time, but Arroyo has said she is confident that military operations would lead to the rescue of the hostages and the destruction of the Abu Sayyaf - MANILA (AFP)
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