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Philippines agrees to peace deal with Muslim rebels

The president of the Philippines has announced a preliminary agreement to end an insurgency by Muslim separatist rebels. The decades-old conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Speaking live on national television, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the framework agreement reached after intense negotiations between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, would set into motion a roadmap toward a final agreement.

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Philippines reaches preliminary peace agreement with rebels

The deal, which was reached during negotiations in Malaysia over the past week, provides for the creation of a new autonomous region in majority-Muslim areas of the south of the mainly Roman Catholic country.

"This agreement creates a new political entity and it deserves a name that symbolises and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro," President Aquino said.

Final deal within four years

"This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued efforts of the past," he added.

A 15-member Transition Commission is to be given the next three years to draft legislation creating Bangsamoro. If all goes according to plan, a peace deal will come into force by 2016, when the president's term in office ends.

Bangsamoro is to be granted more political and economic powers than the current autonomous administration that it is to replace. However, the central government would retain control over issues such as defense, security and foreign policy.

More than 120,000 people are believed to have been killed in the 40-year-old conflict in parts of resource-rich Mindanao.

pfd/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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