Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Philippines, communist rebels may resume talks

GOODWILL GESTURES After the government halted a plan to lift security safeguards for the group's negotiators, the rebels said they were open to talks

AP , MANILA, PHILIPPINES

The Philippine government and communist rebels said yesterday they were open to restarting formal peace negotiations after the government reinstated security guarantees for rebel negotiators that were set to be suspended.

In a statement from exile in the Dutch city of Utrecht, Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator for the Marxist umbrella organization National Democratic Front (NDF), welcomed the government's move to restore safeguards against arrest for 97 rebel negotiators and their staff.

In July, the NDF said it would rather wait for a new government than continue talks with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who faces impeachment over vote-rigging allegations.

The government responded by suspending the safety guarantees, giving the rebels 30-days notice last month.

"The prospects are brighter now since both parties have started to talk, to break the ice, and have started to explore now the possibilities of resuming the formal peace negotiations," said Rene Sarmiento, Arroyo's chief adviser on the peace process.

Jalandoni said on Friday he received a letter from Sarmiento withdrawing the planned suspension -- which would have gone into effect yesterday.

"As regards to venue, date, agenda and mutual cease-fire of short duration, related to resumption and as gesture of goodwill, all these can be further discussed ... with the assistance of the Royal Norwegian government as third party facilitator in due time, taking into account the readiness and convenience of the three parties concerned," he said.

Norway, which has brokered the talks since February last year, invited rebel and government representatives to Oslo on Aug. 28-30 for consultations on resuming formal talks.

Talks that had been scheduled for August last year were postponed by the NDF when Washington refused to remove the underground Communist Party of the Philippines from its list of terror organizations, as well as its armed wing and the party's founder.

The rebels have accused the government of lobbying the US and European countries to label the rebels as terrorists to cut off their foreign funding and restrict their foreign travel.

The communist rebels shifted tact, pledging to end their insurgency immediately if the Philippine government signs a proposed 10-point peace agreement, which they unveiled for the first time last Saturday.

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