Truce monitors arrive in Philippines

International observers have begun arriving in the Philippines to monitor a ceasefire between the government and Muslim separatist guerrillas.

The observers' role is to help maintain the truce during peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that are due to begin in Malaysia next month.

An advance party of military observers, all Malaysians, is due to spend the coming days receiving briefings from the Philippine armed forces, and from guerrillas of the MILF.

The main body of observers, drawn from member-countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, will be deployed in due course.

Malaysia is mediating in peace talks due to begin next month.

All parties have expressed hope that the negotiations will end more than three decades of conflict in the southern Philippines, where militant members of the Muslim minority have been fighting for independence from this mainly Christian country.

The fighting has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Previous peace negotiations have failed, in large degree because, in the absence of neutral observers, previous ceasefires have failed.

The latest ceasefire was agreed on last year and there have been no major breakdowns so far.

By John McLean
BBC, Manila

22/03/2004

Bron : BBC News

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