COTABATO CITY, NOVEMBER 3, 2003  (STAR) By John Unson  - The Libyan government, a benefactor of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), launched here yesterday a housing project for poor Muslim villagers as a showcase of "international cooperation" in fostering peace and sustainable development in the South.

Former Libyan Ambassador to the Philippines Rajab Azzarouq, now a special envoy and chief adviser of the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations (GIFFA), along with Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, led the inaugural rites in the Kalanganan district here.

The Kalanganan district is one of the four sites where the Sema administration will build Libyan-funded core houses for impoverished Muslim residents, mostly relatives of separatist rebels.

Sema, MNLF secretary-general, said landowners supportive of the joint peace efforts in Mindanao of Malacañang and the Organization of Islamic Conference, a group of 54 Muslim states, including Libya, are donating the land.

The OIC, which helped broker the Sept. 2, 1996 government-MNLF truce, is also mediating in the government’s ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Azzarouq said the GIFFA housing project here is his country’s "Ramadan gift" to Filipino Muslims.

The first of its kind in Southeast Asia, the project aims to complement the efforts of Malacañang and the MNLF in addressing socio-economic concerns in Mindanao’s Muslim communities.

The GIFFA, which is managed by Saiful Al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, started implementing humanitarian projects in areas covered by the government-MNLF peace agreement three years ago.

The GIFFA even helped convince the MILF, through Sema as its local conduit, to resume its peace talks with the government after the 2000 military takeover of Camp Abubakar, the front’s main camp where it showcased its concept of a Muslim community for Mindanao’s indigenous Islamic groups.

Azzarouq said the Gaddafi-led charitable institution, now involved in various peace-building projects in many countries, is keen on helping resolve, through humanitarian and socio-economic ventures, the nagging peace and order problems in the southern Philippines.

"If people will have peace in their midst, development will also set in. We want to highlight in our projects in the Philippines the support of our government for the peaceful resolution of the security problems in this country," Azzarouq told The STAR.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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