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SLUG: 2-312-43 Philippines / Malaysia
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=1/20/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PHILIPPINES MALAYSIA (L)

NUMBER=2-312043

BYLINE=MICHAEL BARKER

DATELINE=MANILA

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

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.

(SIGNED)

NEB/MH



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