Gov't wants to break impasse in talks with Muslim rebels
Quezon City (2 October) -- THE government is determined to break a deadlock in talks with Muslim separatist rebels to prevent an outbreak of violence, an adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Monday.
Negotiations between the government and the MILF broke down in early September over the size of the area that would fall under Muslim control.
The MILF has demanded economic control of vast swathes of land as part of its "ancestral domain." The government said it could not grant the request without a plebiscite in the affected areas.
Government negotiators are "now back at the drawing boards to study options," Arroyo's representative to the talks, Jesus Dureza, said in a statement from Madrid, where he is attending a forum of peace advocates.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said government negotiators asked for about three more weeks to craft a new offer.
"We're concerned that other intervening situations could make this opportunity for peace slip away from our hands," Iqbal said.
One danger is the possibility that hardliners in the 120,000-strong military could encourage attacks on the rebels. Guerrilla hardliners may also lose interest in pursuing the talks, according to Iqbal.
The Philippine government regards the peace talks as crucial. It hopes that by engaging the MILF in talks, its vast rural strongholds could potentially be transformed into economic growth hubs instead of battlefields breeding Al-Qaeda-linked militants. (PIA) [top]