Rebels say not ready to resume peace with Philippines

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2011 12:58 AM
Rebels say not ready to resume peace with Philippines

By Pedro Uchi

CAMP DARAPANAN, Philippines (Reuters) - The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group is not ready to return to peace talks with the government next week after disagreements over proposals to end 40 years of conflict, the leader of the separatist group said on Monday.

Al haj Murad Ebrahim said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had asked Malaysia, which has been hosting talks since 2001, to help move the negotiations forward after the rebels rejected Manila's peace proposal last month.

"We feel there is no point of discussion between the two panels," Murad told a news conference at the MILF base on the southern island of Mindanao, confirming Manila's invitation for another round of talks next week in Kuala Lumpur.

"The drafts are too far apart, there was even an impression it was heaven and earth. That is why the necessity for a facilitation in order to have the two positions of the panels nearer each other."

He said further delays in the talks could increase the risks on the entire peace process, giving radicals within the rebel movement enough reason to reject negotiations and fight for an independent and separate Islamic state in the south.

Still, Murad said the ceasefire between government forces and the MILF's guerrilla units would hold for now, saying that while both proposals were far apart, there was a desire for a solution.

The conflict has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and hobbled growth in resource-rich but poor Muslim communities in the south of the largely Catholic state in Southeast Asia.

(Writing by Manny Mogato; Editing by John Mair)