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No peace deal to be signed between Manila and MILF this week: official

(Xinhua)

09:53, August 22, 2011

MANILA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Philippine government chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen said on Sunday no peace deal will be signed in the next round of talks with Muslim rebels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week.

Even as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad have pledged to accelerate the ongoing negotiations to conclude a final peace agreement during a surprise meeting in Tokyo, Japan this month, Leonen said no accord will be hastily approved until provisions are thoroughly reviewed.

"We have learned from the lessons of the past and we will not repeat the same mistakes. I would like to emphasize that there is no 'done deal,'" Leonen said. "The government of the Philippines panel is not going to Malaysia to sign a peace agreement."

The August 22 to 24 Malaysian-brokered talks would provide an opportunity for both sides to tackle substantial issues, including a rebel demand for an expanded Muslim autonomous region and larger access to revenues from natural resources in areas guerrillas want minority Muslims to control.

Leonen said the main agenda of the three-day meeting is the submission of government's proposal to bring peace and development in Mindanao.

The government panel, he said, will present its proposal to the MILF on the first day of the talks.

"This proposal is the position of the government, guided solely by national interest and based on our consultations with the different stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process," he said.

"The next step is for both panels, in the spirit of transparency and inclusivity, to consult with the stakeholders so we can forge a peace agreement, as nothing yet is final," Leonen added.

The 11,000-strong MILF, which has already dropped its secessionist bid, has been battling government troops in the Southern Philippines since 1969 in one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

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