PEACE TALKS WITH REDS TO RESUME OCTOBER 18 IN OSLO

MANILA, OCTOBER 7, 2003 (STAR) By Paolo Romero  - Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said yesterday the government is set to resume separate peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

"I have completed my mission on two fronts," he said. "The separate peace talks with the MILF and the NDF we have already brought to the final stage."

De Venecia said negotiations between the government and the NDF will resume in Oslo, Norway on Oct. 18, and that with the MILF later this month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"We must now put an end to nearly 40 years of violence and bloodshed," he said.

De Venecia said the seven-man government panel headed by chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III are ready to face the 11 members of the NDF panel led by Luis Jalandoni and Jose Ma. Sison.

"The government has submitted a draft peace agreement and it is now up to the NDF to present its draft or make revisions on this draft," he said.

De Venecia said negotiations were preceded by "back-channel talks" that started in December 2001 in Oslo during a meeting between him, the Norwegian Prime Minister and NDF leaders.

Norwegian Parliament Speaker Jorn Kosmo and Valgeib Haugland, Norway’s top Christian Democrat, have already confirmed the date of the government-NDF peace talks, De Venecia added.

On the other hand, De Venecia said peace talks between the government and the MILF have gained the support of the Islamic world’s most influential leaders – Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

During his visit to Kuala Lumpur, he discussed with Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Rzaak the resumption of peace talks with the MILF, De Venecia added.

De Venecia returned last week from Libya – where Qaddafi assured the Speaker that he would not support the MILF separatist movement in Mindanao – and from Norway where he worked for the next round of negotiations with the NDF.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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