Philippine army to increase artillery in Muslim region

The Philippines' largest Muslim group said the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday is delaying in peace talks.

Philippine army to increase artillery in Muslim region

In a statement al haj Ebrahim Murad, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the government was responsible for Malaysia's decision to withdraw from an international peace monitoring team in the south.

Malaysia has said it will not stay on when the team's mandate expires in September because of delays in the peace process.

"If the peace process fails as a result of the government's dilly-dallying and spoiling, we are left with no choice but to seek other means of achieving our objective," Murad said in a statement posted on their website, http://www.luwaran.com.

"Should that happen, the government is to blame for failing to settle the conflict through diplomatic means."

The 11,000-member MILF has been in stop-start negotiations with the government for more than a decade to end the near 40-year conflict, which has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced about 2 million.

The most recent round of talks, brokered by Malaysia from 2001, has been stalled since December 2007, when the MILF accused the government of changing a number of consensus points in a proposed agreement on a Muslim homeland in the south of the country.

Artillery boosting

Although Arroyo has repeatedly said she wants peace, hawks in her cabinet are opposed to giving large swathes of land and water to Muslims and politically powerful Christian clans in the south could oppose a deal.

The Philippine army, meanwhile, plans to boost its artillery in case conflict breaks out when Malaysia starts withdrawing its 41 unarmed monitors on the southern island of Mindanao, according to classified documents seen by Reuters on Monday.

In a letter to the defence department, the army's logistics chief Brigadier-General Jerry Jalandoni wanted "emergency procurement" for nearly 1.6 billion pesos ($38 million) worth of artillery and explosives "in view of the crisis situation that may develop in Mindanao".

Although the Philippines has promised not to break a 2003 truce with the MILF, both sides have said the withdrawal of the Malaysians could jeopardise an uneasy peace.

Reuters

Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2008, 16:22
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