SLUG: 2-312-43 Philippines / Malaysia
TITLE=PHILIPPINES MALAYSIA (L)
INTRO: Manila and Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday agreed on a plan for fresh
peace talks aimed at ending a long-standing Muslim insurgency in the
troubled southern Philippines. Michael Barker reports from Manila.
TEXT: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Malaysian Prime Minister
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is visiting Manila, agreed that Malaysia
would play the role of mediator in a bid to end nearly three decades of
insurgency by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The meeting between the negotiators and rebels will take place in Kuala
Lumpur by mid-February.
The M-I-L-F has been fighting for more than three decades to establish a
separate Muslim homeland in the southern island of Mindanao. The
Philippines is mostly Roman Catholic, while Malaysia is mostly Muslim.
Malaysia hosted talks between the Philippine government and the rebels
nearly a year ago, but sporadic fighting between government troops and
the rebels has hampered formal negotiations.
But Parouk Hussin, Governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,
believes fewer clashes due to a ceasefire called several months ago have
improved goodwill and the chances for a peace deal.
The M-I-L-F has been accused of providing training and sanctuary to
foreign militants from Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terror group with
alleged ties to al Qaida, a connection denied by the M-I-L-F leadership.
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