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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 18:38 GMT
Independence call by Muslim leader
tanks in Zamboanga in the southern Philippines
Tight security after the revolt by Nur Misuari's supporters
Philippine Muslim leader Nur Misuari has renewed his demand for independence for the country's Muslim minority.

His lawyer says Mr Misuari, who is currently detained in neighbouring Malaysia, says he will seek the help of the United Nations to achieve his goal.

The demand appears to indicate that the Muslim leader has effectively abandoned the peace agreement he signed with the Philippine government in 1996.

"He told me that he wants independence, no less than the de-colonisation of the Bangsa Moro (Muslim) homeland", his lawyer, Elly Pamatong said in an interview on Manila's ANC television network.

A former chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Nur Misuari led a 24-year revolt for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines until 1996.

Nur Misuari
Is awaiting his fate in a Malaysian prison cell: Nur Misuari

He then signed a peace deal with the authorities in Manila and became the governor of a Muslim self-rule area - the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) - comprising five provinces and the city of Zamboanga.

But he boycotted last month's election of a new governor for the area, and hundreds of his followers staged an uprising, attacking army posts on the southern island of Jolo.

More than 100 people were killed in the violence.

Mr Misuari was later arrested in neighbouring Malaysia and has been accused of illegally entering the country.

Back home, he faces rebellion charges.


The authorities in Kuala Lumpur and Manila have not yet reached agreement over his fate.

The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said on Thursday he was ready to deport Mr Misuari, but Manila's ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, Jose Brillantes, said the Philippines is not ready to take him back.

His lawyer said last week he had filed a petition with the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, seeking political asylum for Mr Misuari.

At the height of the MNLF rebellion in the 1970s, his army was estimated to number 30,000 but dwindled after power struggles split the group into factions.

Military officials estimate that Mr Misuari can now count on less than 1,000 guerrillas.

The new governor of ARMM, Parouk Hussin, earlier this week called for the rebels to lay down their weapons and said he would seek a dialogue with the followers of Mr Misuari.

See also:

06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Guide to Philippines conflict
04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine governor offers olive branch
29 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine troops clash with rebels
27 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
A never ending conflict
27 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine rebels free hostages
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