Philippines confident to seal peace deal with Muslim rebels in 5 months

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MANILA, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government is confident to seal a peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the next five months, a cabinet official said Saturday.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the government is convinced of the rebel group's goodwill and sincerity in peace talks.

"We are confident to have a win-win consensus in the peace agreement. We are very optimistic that a peace pact between the MILF and the government can be signed before the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," Remonde said.

At the same time, the palace official said Malaysia plays a key role in the negotiation as the third party.

The MILF, which the Philippine military says has 11,000 fighters, is the largest rebel group battling for self-rule in Mindanao. A final peace agreement is expected to end the more than four decades of Muslim rebellion in the southern Philippines.

As agreed by both parties, an international team was set up lately to monitor the cease-fire. The peace monitors are from Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia and Norway, a rebel spokesman said.

Manila and the MILF resumed talks late last year after more than one year of hostility due to the collapse of signing a peace agreement in 2008.

Editor: Wang Guanqun