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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Manila and rebels reach agreement
Philippine troops (archive picture)
The MILF said it was prepared to compromise
The Philippine government and Muslim rebels have announced a breakthrough in preliminary peace talks in Malaysia.

Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said they had reached an agreement over ancestral land, a major stumbling block in negotiations.

A joint statement hailed the talks as a "breakthrough toward a just and durable solution to the Mindanao conflict".

The MILF has fought for a separate state in the predominantly Catholic Philippines for nearly 30 years.

The statement was made after three days of meetings between both sides in the port city of Georgetown, northern Malaysia, which began on Monday.

The announcement did not give details of the agreement but stated that formal peace talks would begin within months.

The MILF has been demanding rights over its "ancestral domain", an area covering most of the southern island of Mindanao.

But MILF officials have said they would be prepared to consider a compromise deal.

The group agreed a truce with Manila in 2003 but attempts to reach a settlement have been hampered by sporadic clashes between troops and militants.

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