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PHL peace talks with MILF enters key phase on Jan. 9


The "substantive" phase of peace talks with Muslim rebels aimed at ending a long-running insurgency in the country's troubled south.is set to begin on Monday in Kuala Lumpur, according to Secretary Teresita Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process.
 
"The peace panel is currently preparing for the next round of formal talks with the MILF," Deles said in a statement.
 
"As both parties are expected to delve into the substantive aspects of the negotiations, I continue to positively hope that the panels complete their tasks and come up with a framework for a political settlement in the soonest possible time," she said.
 
She did not say how long the next round of talks would last, but previous closed-door negotiations typically lasted three days.
 
The 12,000-strong MILF has waged a rebellion since the the 1970s, and the conflict has claimed up to 150,000 lives.
 
Peace talks have been going on for about a decade, but have been frequently bogged down by deadly clashes with both sides accusing each other of violating a ceasefire.
 
In October, MILF rebels killed 19 soldiers on the southern island of Basilan, triggering fierce battles on several fronts in the south.
 
As many as 40 soldiers, rebels and civilians were killed in the violence, which also displaced thousands.
 
President Benigno Aquino held firm despite coming under intense pressure to scrap the talks and launch an all-out war against the MILF.
 
In December both sides met again in Kuala Lumpur, with Manila challenging the MILF to punish rogue members among its ranks responsible for the attacks and work toward a final peace settlement by the first quarter of this year.
 
Deles on Sunday did not divulge details of the "substantive issues" to be discussed, but the MILF had previously demanded the creation of a "sub-state" for minority Muslims in the south in lieu of a separate Islamic state. — Agence France Presse
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 January 8, 2012 10:51pm

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