Manila and rebels hail end of war

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The Independent Online
Malabang (Reuter) - President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines and the Muslim leader Nur Misuari embraced each other yesterday, declaring that a war which has killed 120,000 Filipinos was over. "We have agreed to ... restore peace," said Mr Misuari, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front.

The meeting was meant to help finalise a plan that has attracted opposition from the Christian majority on the main southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Some groups have threatened to take up arms against the pact, scheduled to be signed at the end of the month. In his speech Mr Ramos said he would not tolerate violent opposition to the pact, which involves setting up a peace and development council with Mr Misuari as its head.

Mr Misuari referred to problems that needed to be ironed out before the pact could be put into effect, although he did not specify them. "The council is ... Ramos's baby, not mine. It is up to the President to nurture this baby to maturity." The pact envisages the council as a prelude to an expanded, Muslim-led autonomous region covering 14 southern provinces.

Muslims regard Mindanao and its nearby islands as their traditional homeland, even though they are in a minority there following decades of Christian migration.