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The BBC's John Maclean in Manila
"Mrs Arroyo has given priority to the resumption of negotiations with the guerrillas"
 real 56k

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo
"The government retains the option of retalative military response"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 06:26 GMT
Arroyo orders ceasefire with rebels
Philippine soldiers
Talks collapsed after last year's military offensive
The new Philippine President, Gloria Arroyo, says she is ordering the suspension of military operations against the largest group of Muslim rebels in the south of the country.


I would say that building peace would be less expensive than supporting an all-out war

President Arroyo
Mrs Arroyo said the ceasefire, which is expected to take effect quickly, would clear the way for the resumption of stalled peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF said it would await formal notification of the ceasefire before responding.

Talks between Manila and the Islamic separatists collapsed last year, after the then President Joseph Estrada ordered an all-out offensive against them.

Peace moves
1996
MNLF and government reach peace deal
Splinter groups continue rebellion
2000
Abu Sayyaf step up hostage takings
Government launches major offensive
2001
President Estrada ousted
New President Arroyo calls for new talks with rebels
When Mrs Arroyo became president last month she ordered her government to resume negotiations with MILF and, also, with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

'Lost trust'

"I would say that building peace would be less expensive than supporting an all-out war," she told a news conference.

Mrs Arroyo said the ceasefire would also allow more than 200,000 people displaced by fighting in the southern Philippines to return to their homes.

President Gloria Arroyo
Peace talks are a priority for President Arroyo
On Monday, Jesus Dureza, head of a government panel in charge of negotiations with the rebels said he had written to the MILF chairman, Salamat Hashim, asking him to restart peace talks.

"I think there is a lot of goodwill now. We have to build on the lost trust," said Mr Dureza.

The MILF did not say whether it would also declare a ceasefire, saying it would await formal notification.

But the rebels appeared to welcome Mrs Arroyo's announcement.

"We respect that and our focus of attention now is the peace talks," MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told ABS-CBN television.

Mrs Arroyo specified that the ceasefire only covered the MILF and made no mention of the smaller but more radical Muslim group, the Abu Sayyaf, which captured dozens of hostages in the south last year.

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See also:

20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Challenges confronting Arroyo
20 Jan 01 | Media reports
Arroyo inaugural speech: Excerpts
21 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo moves to bolster economy
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
World leaders welcome Arroyo
09 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Moro separatist base 'captured'
31 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines rejects truce with rebels
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Gloria Arroyo: Contrast in styles
20 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Southern Philippines' uneasy history
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