Time ripe for peace with MILF: Clinton

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 13 2009 07:42 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2009 03:42 AM

MANILA - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that she is optimistic a peace pact between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will happen before President Arroyo steps down in 2010.

Clinton said she believes Mrs. Arroyo is ready to make "difficult decisions" regarding the peace talks with the MILF before the end of her term.

"I think that [President Arroyo] is committed. She wants to see this done. In fact, what I've often found is that it's easier to make these difficult decisions when you're on your way out of office because you know what's at stake... Her team is very committed to doing this," Clinton said during a forum in Manila.

Clinton said the US supports the Philippine government's efforts to negotiate a peace pact with the MILF, which has been waging a separatist rebellion on the southern island of Mindanao since 1978.

"The conditions for peace are ripe. People really want to see it. I hope no one misses this opportunity because this will make a very big difference in the lives of the people of Mindanao and of the entire country," she said.

In urging quick action, Clinton recalled that her husband, Bill Clinton was close to sealing a Middle East peace agreement near the end of his time as US president.

But she said then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had put this off, thinking he could get a better deal from Bill Clinton's successor. None came.

"So strike while the iron is hot, when people are in the mood and willing to make peace. Do not sleep, do not rest until we finally get there," she told a crowd of students at the forum.

The government and the 12,000-member MILF have been taking tentative steps towards resuming formal negotiations in recent months.

Peace talks were halted last year after the MILF attacked Christian communities across the southern Philippines, killing more than 300 people and displacing around 750,000.

Talks were scheduled to resume in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia next week. With Agence France-Presse