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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Philippines rebels call ceasefire
Philippine troops
The army is waging a major offensive against MILF rebels
Separatist Muslim rebels facing a military offensive by the government in the southern Philippines have declared a 10-day unilateral ceasefire.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the ceasefire would come into effect next Tuesday and urged the government to reciprocate.

The move follows an intensified campaign by the Philippines military against the MILF after a spate of deadly attacks since March, which the government has blamed on the rebels.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has reportedly called a meeting of cabinet ministers and security officials to discuss the declaration.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the group called the ceasefire following calls for an end to fighting by the country's Catholic leaders.

The rebels said they would halt attacks on the southern island of Mindanao and Sulu.

They urged the government to withdraw its troops within the 10-day period or face renewed fighting.

"We hope the government will reciprocate this offer," Mr Kabalu told French news agency AFP.

President Arroyo ordered a military offensive against MILF fighters in Mindanao 12 days ago and has threatened to declare the MILF a terrorist group if it did not stop attacks by 1 June.

'Tactical move'

The government has not officially responded to the ceasefire offer, but the southern military chief Major General Roy Kyamko rejected it as a "tactical move", the Associated Press news agency reported.

"They [the MILF] are barking up the wrong tree... The only concession is for them [the MILF] to surrender," AP quoted the general as saying.

The MILF has been fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines since 1978.

Attacks blamed on the rebels have killed at least 100 people this year, while about 60 guerrillas have died in the recent fighting, according to the army.

Philippines strikes at 'terrorists'
18 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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Guide to the Philippines conflict
17 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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