Muslims say not informed as Philippines forms 'peace panel'
The Philippines said it formed a new negotiating panel on Tuesday to resume talks with Muslims.
Two former lawmakers and a Muslim who is part of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's cabinet have been named to a panel that will hold talks with the largest Muslim group in the south, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to lay down their arms.
"We are still assembling the pieces to get the peace process started again in a way that upholds our commitment to peace," said Hermogenes Esperon, a retired general and Arroyo's peace adviser, who is not part of the panel.
He said talks could resume early next year once both parties agreed to sit down.
But Mohaqher Iqbal, the MILF's chief negotiator, said he doubted whether talks could resume soon.
"Until now, we have not received any response from Malaysia with regard to the resumption of talks," Iqbal said, adding that Kuala Lumpur, which has been facilitating talks since 2001, should inform both parties when negotiations are to be resumed.
"Our position has not changed. We'll only negotiate based on the ancestral domain agreement that we failed to sign in Kuala Lumpur in August," Iqbal said.
After four decades of armed conflict between the Filipino state and the Moro Muslims, the two parties agreed to sign an agreement that would end the conflict. However, the supreme court of the Philippine declared the agreement illegal on August 4, which caused the conflict to resume.
Islam came to the Philippines in the 13th century 200 years before Christianity did.
Agencies Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2008, 16:32