US ENVOY SAYS NO RP COMBAT FOR YANKEE TROOPS  

Manila, Feb. 26, 2003 -- Francis Ricciardone, US ambassador to the Philippines, said his country has agreed in principle with Malacaņang that American forces will not participate in actual combat against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

He said what was agreed on in principle "at very high levels of our two governments" was that the "US forces (will) support operations led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the Abu Sayyaf."

He declined to elaborate on the kind of support, saying the operational details of the exercises are still being discussed.

He also belied pronouncements unidentified officials from Pentagon who claimed that the US troops in Mindanao will be at the forefront line of the operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

He said the US respects the Philippine Constitution.

"You are our ally, for heaven's sake. We would not do anything to violate your laws or your Constitution. We proved that last year in Balikatan when everybody was fussing about the same thing," he said.

He also denied 3,000 US troops will be sent to Sulu, adding that the operational details of the Balikatan have still to be worked out.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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