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Philippines' Muslim insurgents sign peace deal

The Philippines' government has signed a preliminary peace deal with Muslim insurgents from the country's restive south. The agreement could mark the first significant step towards ending a decades-long insurgency.

The Philippines' government and Muslim rebels signed a peace pact on Monday, which could herald the end of a 43 year separatist insurgency in the country's southern region.

Negotiators from both sides - government negotiator, Marvic Leonen, and his equivalent from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Mohagher Iqbal - signed the "framework agreement" at the country's presidential palace, in a televised ceremony that was witnessed by President Benigno Aquino and MILF leader, Murad Ebrahim.

In accordance with the agreement, the southern region of Mindanao will be renamed Bangsamoro by 2016. The region's new name means "Muslim nation," as derived from a mix of Malay and Spanish. Mindanao is the Philippines' second-largest region and is 32 percent Muslim and 63 percent Christian. The proportion of people living on a dollar per day or less, at more than 40 percent, is significantly higher than the national average.

The Muslim insurgency against the government traces back to 1969, when university professor, Nur Misuari, created the Moro National Liberation Front. Over the last four decades, the conflict which subsequently ensued, has claimed more than 100,000 victims.

sej/kms (dpa, AP, AFP)