MILF EXPLORATORY TALKS THURSDAY IN KL

Manila, March 25, 2003 -- The peace panels of the government and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will meet in Kuala Lumpur on March 27 for
"exploratory talks" in preparation for a possible resumption of formal
peace talks.

The exploratory talks would be held in the wake of tension that still
prevails in Mindanao following the military operations in Pikit, North
Cotabato and the bombing of a waiting shed near the Davao International
Airport.

Jesus Dureza, presidential assistant on Mindanao and head of the government
peace panel, said his panel of about five members would leave for Malaysia
on March 26.

"This will be exploratory in nature which means there will be no agenda and
we'll be meeting with our counterparts...Anything is possible because this
is exploratory," he said.

He said the exploratory talks is "very crucial" because "it is a first step."

Dureza met with governors and mayors of areas in Mindanao which are
affected by the armed conflict between government troops and MILF rebels.

He said the upcoming exploratory talks is a product of the back-channeling
work undertaken by Norberto Gonzales, presidential adviser on special
concerns, and Roberto Romulo, senior consultant on international
competitiveness, who went to Malaysia recently.

He said the government delegation has a list of the things it would bring
up with the MILF but declined to give details, except that it would include
the situation in Mindanao and the plight of the evacuees.

He said the cases against the MILF leaders would not affect the exploratory
talks because "the judicial process will proceed independent of the peace
process."

He said he is not aware of any plan to recall the arrest warrants against
MILF leaders regarding their involvement in the Davao City bombing last
March 4.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2003  by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE