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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 13:14 GMT
US to resume Philippine exercises
US troops in the Philippines on 17 October 2006
The annual joint military exercises involve thousands of troops
The US has reversed a decision to cancel a major joint military exercise with the Philippines, officials say.

The move comes after the Philippines handed over a US marine, convicted of rape in the country, into US custody.

The US cancelled the annual joint war games after a Manila court remanded Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in jail following his conviction on 4 December.

Washington said the decision broke a special bilateral agreement over the treatment of US troops in the country.

L/Cpl Smith was moved from a jail in the capital Manila to the US embassy on Friday.

He is appealing against his conviction and 40-year sentence for the rape of a woman at a former US base in November 2005.

The case has sparked strong protests from women's and left-wing groups.

A lawyer for the woman at the centre of the rape case said the transfer of L/Cpl Smith would be challenged in the courts.

Appeal for understanding

US embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop confirmed to news agencies that Washington had decided to go ahead with the military exercises, although possibly not in February as originally planned.

Daniel Smith
Lance Corporal Smith is appealing against the sentence

"We will proceed with Balikatan 2007, but the dates and places will be announced soon," he told Reuters news agency by telephone.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has appealed for understanding over the transfer of L/Cpl Smith, and promised it will not "impede justice and the rule of law".

"The government had to take this action in order to forestall the further deterioration in our strategic relationship with the United States," she said.

Under a Visiting Forces Agreement, US troops accused of crimes should remain at the US embassy until all legal processes are completed.

The annual Balikatan exercise this year are expected to involved about 5,000 US soldiers and 3,000 Filipino troops.

L/Cpl Smith had been taking part in joint military exercises in November 2005 when he was arrested over the rape and charged along with three others.

The 21-year-old from St Louis, Missouri, insists the sex was consensual. The other three defendants were cleared.




SEE ALSO
US cancels Philippine exercises
22 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Marines face Philippine rape case
28 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
US rebuffs Philippines rape call
17 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Rape charges for American marines
28 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
US marines 'raped Filipina woman'
03 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
US troops in Philippines exercise
23 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Guide to the Philippines conflict
10 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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