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The BBC's John McClean
"The peace process has been made even shakier"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Philippines rejects truce with rebels
Government troops
The army is trying to pen the rebels in
Philippine President Joseph Estrada has ruled out a ceasefire with Muslim rebels waging a separatist rebellion in the south, according to a senior aide.

The government is in its second day of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is fighting for an independent state in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

Ricardo Puno, the president's spokesman, said Mr Estrada wanted to secure a more permanent peace than a temporary ceasefire which the rebels could use to regroup and strengthen.


Marines attack a suspected MILF camp in early May
The military attacks a suspected MILF camp
The violence in the south of the country has stifled economic growth and rattled financial markets.

There are also fears that the rebellion could spread to the capital Manila following a number of bomb blasts in the city.

Government negotiators have offered the rebels a "political package" granting a measure of self-rule instead of independence.

Officials said the government had given the 15,000-strong MILF an ultimatum to accept its autonomy package or face a military onslaught.

More than 300 rebels and 80 soldiers have been killed since March when the government launched an offensive against the guerrillas.

President Estrada has set a 30 June deadline for the completion of the peace talks which are intended to end more than two decades of violence in the south.

Camp

As the negotiations began on Tuesday, the government announced its forces had captured a major MILF training base.

The army said soldiers "completely overran" Camp Bushra in the southern Mindanao island, after four days of fighting in which 43 guerrillas and two of its own men were killed.


map
The MILF want a separate Muslim state in Mindanao
Officials said the capture of the Bushra camp, together with the offensive near the MILF's central headquarters at Camp Abubakar, was designed to pen the rebels into one area, where the government is set to offer them self-rule.

However MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the government had only taken a forward defence post.

Bomb charges

Meanwhile 26 alleged Muslim rebels were charged with murder and attempted murder on Wednesday following bomb attacks at two Manila shopping malls.


suspected rebels accused of manila bombing
Police have arrested 26 suspected rebels for the bombings
The blasts killed one person and injured at least 24 others.

The MILF says none of the 26 suspects arrested were members.

The government is also continuing negotiations with the smaller Muslim separatist group, Abu Sayyaf, which is holding 21 foreign hostages on Jolo island.

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See also:

29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Rebels deny Manila bombings
21 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Manila hit by cinema bomb
18 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bomb blasts rock Jolo
05 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Rebels declare ceasefire
12 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Church call for prayer crusade
02 May 00 | Media reports
Separatist clashes intensify in Mindanao
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