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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 February 2007, 15:56 GMT
Rebel faction in Burma peace deal
A Karen National Union fighter armed with an AK-47 machinegun
The KNU insists the peace deal will not affect its armed struggle
Burma has announced a peace deal with a splinter group of the Karen rebel movement, which has been fighting Burmese rule for over half a century.

Officials held a peace ceremony with the head of the group, Htain Maung.

He and a few hundred followers broke from the main organisation, the Karen National Union (KNU), two weeks ago.

The KNU says it still has about 10,000 rebel fighters and insists the split will not affect its battle for greater autonomy against central government.

The peace ceremony took place in Htokawhto village in Kawkareik Kawkareik, a government spokesman said. A senior minister and the head of the south-eastern military command attended.

Decades of war

Burma's ethnic diversity gave rise to many rebel groups after independence in 1948. The KNU is the country's largest ethnic rebel group.

It reached an informal truce with the military two years ago. However, no formal agreement was signed and fighting later resumed.

Aid agencies estimate that as many as 200,000 Karen people have been driven from their homes during decades of war.

A further 120,000 refugees from Burma, mostly Karen, live in camps in Thailand.

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