U.S. says its role in peace process up to Philippine government, MILF

19:23, October 26, 2009      

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The United States' top envoy to the Philippines said Monday that it's up to the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to determine what role the U.S. will play in the peace process.

"We intend to be supportive in what way both parties think could be useful so we don't have a set roadmap yet. We're waiting to see where the discussions go and how we can help," Ambassador Kristie Kenney said in a chance interview.

The U.S. government has stressed that negotiation is the only way to peace in Mindanao, but remained mum on the invitation of Muslim rebels to help broker peace talks with the Philippine government.

"We're waiting to see a little bit more from both parties on how they think we can best support," Kenney said.

Washington is a major aid donor to impoverished Muslim areas of Mindanao, and U.S. special forces based on the island provide training and intelligence to Philippine troops fighting Islamist militants.

The MILF earlier called for Washington's involvement in the Mindanao peace process, saying the U.S. government "can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict."

It was not clear if the MILF wanted the U.S. to replace Malaysia as the broker of the peace talks.

The MILF, which the Philippine military says has 11,000 fighters, is the largest group battling for self-rule in Mindanao.

Negotiations collapsed in August 2008 after both sides failed to sign an agreement on ancestral domain, prompting rogue MILF commanders and their men to launch deadly attacks on mostly Christian communities in Mindanao.

The renewed fighting has killed over 100 and displaced approximately 300,000 people, many of whom were still in evacuation centers.

After more than a year of stalled negotiations, the government and the MILF agreed this year to resume peace talks after both sides declared a ceasefire.

Source: Xinhua
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