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Philippines : Government To Resume Talks With Muslim Rebels, Officials Say

ICC Note: The Philippine government has decided to resume talks with militant Islamic rebels trying to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law despite the fact that the group has admitted to killing 14 government troops in a recent ambush.

8/14/07 PHILIPPINES (esinchew) – The Philippine government will resume Malaysian-brokered peace talks with a large Muslim rebel group next week amid a recent outbreak of fighting that nearly scuttled the talks, officials said Tuesday (Aug 14th).

The talks, which broke down in September over rebel territorial demands, will resume in Malaysia between government negotiators and Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas on Aug 22nd, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

MILF forces attacked a marine convoy returning to camp after a failed search for a kidnapped Italian priest last month, killing 14 marines on southern Basilan island.

Ten of the marines were found beheaded but the guerrillas denied they were behind the beheadings, which enraged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and top generals, who ordered a massive manhunt for the killers.

The guerrillas warned a major offensive against their strongholds on Basilan, about 850 kilometers (530 miles) south of Manila , could cause already-stalled peace talks to collapse.

Reinforcement troops were deployed to Basilan and despite days of government saber rattling, a planned offensive has not happened. Police have so far failed to find dozens of rebels involved in the July 10th attack…

“There is broad support for the president’s affirmation of the prime importance of preserving the cease-fire and advancing the peace process,” Bunye said…

Despite suspicions of MILF’s ties to al-Qaida-linked militants, U.S. and Philippine officials have continued to promote the talks, hoping the guerrillas would end their rebellion and not become potential allies of terror groups. (AP)

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