Philippines

Philippines not surprised by communist rebels scrapping peace talks

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Manila (dpa) - The Philippine government said Friday it was not surprised that communist rebels have decided to scrap peace talks amid a political crisis threatening to bring down President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said it was useless to resume stalled peace talks since the Arroyo government was not expected to last long.

Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the NDF would wait for a new administration before returning to the negotiating table.

"The NDF has consistently used a strategy of peace talks alongside armed action, and it is not surprising that it is acting in this manner," said presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

"Peace and unification have always been the policy of the government, but the NDF has consistently spurned this policy by acts of terrorism," he added. "Now the NDF has finally shown its true colours as a terrorist organization."

The peace talks have been suspended since August 2004 when the rebels demanded that Manila take steps to remove them from the terrorist blacklist of the United States, the European Union, Canada and Australia.

Despite the suspension of the formal negotiations, the two sides have met several times to discuss the possibility of reviving the talks, which were being hosted by Norway.

Bunye stressed that the government was not closing its doors on peace talks with the communist rebels.

"The government would always be willing to extend the hand of peace to anybody who is willing to take it under the aegis of the constitution," he said.

Communist rebels have been fighting the Philippine government since the late 1960s, making the movement one of the longest running leftist insurgencies in Asia.

They have supported calls for Arroyo to resign over allegations she cheated in last year's elections, warning she could face the same fate as Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and end up "executed in the streets" if she refuses to step down. dpa jg gl pw

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