Philippines, Muslim deal may be delayed row over homeland draft

Plans to sign a peace deal next year by the Philippines' government and an Islamic group may be thwarted after a dispute Saturday over a draft agreement on the boundaries for a Muslim homeland, officials said.

Philippines, Muslim deal may be delayed row over homeland draft
Negotiating teams from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were supposed to finalize a draft agreement on a proposed Muslim homeland in the southern region of Mindanao in Kuala Lumpur, scheduled from Saturday to December 17.

But the meeting was aborted after the MILF found the government's draft "totally unacceptable" because it raised "constitutional issues" on the creation of the proposed Muslim homeland.

"The stand of the MILF peace panel and their principal, the central committee of the MILF, is that it is better to have no agreement at all than to enter into a bad agreement," chief rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.

"This ugly turn of events in the peace process is taxing the patience of the MILF and the Bangsamoro (Muslim nation) people, who may be compelled to resort to other means of resolving the Mindanao conflict when they are pushed to the wall and become hopeless in the present peace process," he added.

Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the government's team was on the way back to Manila on Sunday.

"I am aware that more discussions in the Cabinet will have to take place considering that some points in the government position have constitutional implications that need to be clarified to ensure the successful implementation of agreements reached," he said.

Dureza stressed that despite the problem, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo "is determined to pursue a comprehensive settlement with the MILF, hence (the) difficulties are surmountable."

Last month, the two sides announced they had agreed on key issues for the creation of the proposed Muslim homeland, including concept, resources, territory and governance, but they did not give details.

The Muslim homeland would technically expand an existing Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, home to the country's Muslims. The entity's financial resources would have to be shared between the its governing body and the national government.

The government and the MILF, which has been fighting for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao since 1978, had hoped to sign an agreement on the Muslim homeland to pave the way for a comprehensive peace agreement next year.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Aralık 2007, 00:10
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