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Nobel laureate urges MILF to work for peace

Posted at | Updated as of 11/18/12 4:40 AM

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines – Nobel laureate Lord David Trimble urged Muslim rebels on Saturday to strive to overcome remaining hurdles to peace after they signed a landmark deal with the Philippine government.

Lord Trimble held up the example of the 1998 Belfast Good Friday agreement that ended the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland as a template during a visit to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front camp in the southern Philippines.

"Our experience was it was difficult... to get an agreement. And when we did get an agreement, we found the implementation of the agreement challenging," he told reporters accompanying him on the visit.

"And sometimes the challenges were not the ones we anticipated before."

He said he discussed with MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar the potential roadblocks to the successful implementation of the deal the group signed with President Benigno Aquino's government last month.

The 12,000-strong MILF agreed in the pact to give up its quest for an independent homeland in the south in return for significant power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region there to be known as Bangsamoro.

The pact aims to achieve a final peace by 2016, ending an insurgency that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives since the 1970s.

"I am delighted with the framework agreement," Trimble said.

There'll still be a problem in the future, but I think the problem will be on a different order," he added.

He urged the Muslim leadership to now shun violence and devote their efforts to improving the lives of the mainly Catholic nation's large Islamic minority that the government says has been left impoverished by the MILF rebellion.

The two sides should work at creating opportunities as well as providing skills for the people whose lives had been disrupted by the 40-year conflict, to allow them to uplift their economic well-being, he added.

Trimble and Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for their efforts at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

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