by Staff Writers
Camp Darapanan, Philippines (AFP) Sept 5, 2011
Muslim rebels waging a decades-long insurgency in the Philippines said Monday they would refuse to hold further direct talks with the government until it modified its peace plan.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Murad Ebrahim said his negotiators would not meet their government counterparts next week as planned because the two sides' positions were too far apart.
"With this situation we feel that there is no point of discussion between the two panels," Murad told reporters at Camp Darapanan, the MILF's rural headquarters on the outskirts of Cotabato city, in the southern Philippines.
Murad said the MILF would instead ask the Malaysian facilitator of the talks to meet separately with both sides in an effort to have the government alter its peace plan, which he described as an "exercise in futility".
"It is necessity (to have) facilitation in order to help the two positions of the panels get nearer each other, and create an atmosphere conducive to discussions," he said.
Murad said the government's offer, made last month during the last round of talks in Kuala Lumpur, focused too heavily on socio-economic reforms, while ignoring the MILF's quest for an autonomous substate for Muslims in the south.
"We need them to understand that the problem is a political problem and the solution must be a political solution," he said.
He said the determination of the Philippines' Muslim minority population to have an autonomous homeland in the south was the "root cause" of the problem and the government must agree to discuss this for peace talks to continue.
The government has not released full details of its roadmap for peace, but said the broad principles focus on achieving socio-economic reforms in the impoverished south of the country and other "doables" in an initial phase.
The government has also offered what it has described as a form of autonomy for Muslims in the south.
But Murad said Muslims would have no real autonomy under the government's plan and that a "substate" allowing much more freedom from the central powers in Manila must be created.
About 150,000 people have died since the MILF and other armed Muslim groups began their struggle in the 1970s, according to military estimates.
A ceasefire between the MILF and government troops has been in place since 2003, however this has been regularly broken.
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Bolivian ex-officials get prison for 2003 massacre
La Paz (AFP) Aug 30, 2011
A Bolivian court on Tuesday sentenced several top former officials, including the one-time head of the country's armed forces, to prison for their role in a brutal crackdown that left some 65 people dead during a 2003 protest. Two former ministers and five ex-military officers were each given prison terms of between three and 15 years for their role in the massacre, which also left some 500 ... read more
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