MNLF REUNIFICATION TALKS IN LYBIA

Tripoli, Libya, April 6, 2003 --  At least five factions of the oldest 
Muslim rebel movement in the Philippines opened talks on reunification 
Saturday, seeking to strengthen the 1996 peace agreement with the 
Philippine government, Libyan officials said.

A Philippine government representative and Governor Paruk Hussin of the 
Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao were attending the talks, scheduled to 
last two days, the officials said. Hussin was Minister of Foreign Affairs 
of the MNLF before the group's breakup.

The Moro National Liberation Front fought for Muslim self-rule in the 
southern Philippines in the 1970s. With the help of Libyan mediation, it 
signed a peace deal with the government in 1996 that granted the region 
limited autonomy.

Several factions broke away from the main group, however, after the arrest 
of its leader Nur Misuari, who is being tried for allegedly leading an 
attack on an army base in November 2001 that killed more than 100 people.

With Libyan help, four factions signed a unity declaration in January and 
were invited to Libya to seal the agreement.

The Libyan government hopes the talks will result in Muslim groups gaining 
a united voice in negotiations with the government.

No violent factions - such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the al 
Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group - are participating in the talks.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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