Philippines nears pact to end longtime insurgency
MANILA (AP) - Philippine government and Muslim guerrilla negotiators are drafting a preliminary agreement to settle a decades-long rebellion in the country's south, but the insurgents said on Tuesday their insurrection won't end until a final pact is concluded.
The initial "framework agreement" with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be made public before it's signed in a few months, government negotiator Marvic Leonen said. It would be the most important progress in years of negotiations to settle a rebellion that has caused more than 120,000 deaths, held back development in the south and sparked worries that rebel strongholds could become breeding grounds of Al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists.
The 11,000-strong rebel group has been fighting for self-rule for minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south. It dropped a demand for a separate Muslim state but still seeks the expansion of an existing Muslim autonomous region and more powers and resources to rehabilitate the violent and poverty-wracked area.
The initial accord would contain general agreements on key issues, including the extent of power, revenues and territory to be granted to a Muslim-administered region, rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said. A transition commission would be established after the signing to work out the details of the initial pact, which hopefully would lead to a final accord as early as three years later, he told The Associated Press.