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Revive peace talks: MILF to Malaysia

world Updated: Aug 23, 2008 16:33 IST

AFP
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The head of the leading Muslim rebel group in the Philippines on Saturday said he asked Malaysia to revive stalled peace talks with Manila to end weeks of brutal fighting.

But Ebrahim Murad, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), added that his group still reserved the right to resume its large-scale rebellion if the peace process collapses.

"War is among the options. It is part of the struggle. The MILF is determined to continue that struggle," said Murad in a meeting with reporters at a MILF camp near this town in the southern Philippines.

Murad said he sent a request two days ago to Malaysia, which has been hosting peace negotiations between the Philippines and the MILF.

However, Kuala Lumpur was yet to respond to Murad's call.

Murad said the MILF, which has been waging a separatist war for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines for four decades, still wanted the peace talks to continue despite the renewed fighting.

The peace talks stalled after the Supreme Court on August 4 suspended a draft peace agreement for the creation of an expanded Muslim autonomous area in the south.

Since then, MILF forces, led by commanders Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar have attacked towns, looting and burning homes and sending 220,000 people fleeing.

Military operations in the south are continuing against the forces of Kato and Macapaar who is also known as Commander Bravo. The army estimates about 80 people have died in the two-week conflict so far.

Murad said the MILF would not surrender, nor agree to be disarmed as President Gloria Arroyo has suggested.