Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama Reaches Out To Muslim Rebel Group

US President Barack Obama has sent a letter to the leader of the main Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, a guerrilla official said Saturday.

The letter to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Murad Ibrahim was delivered to rebel peace negotiators by Deputy Assistant State Secretary Scot Marciel, according to Muhammad Ameen, chairman of the MILF secretariat.

Ameen said Marciel and two other US diplomats met MILF peace negotiators headed by Mohagher Iqbal on November 6.

Ameen did not disclose the contents of the letter but said it was a response to a letter Murad sent to Obama after he won the election last year.

On Friday, US State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the Philippine government and the MILF to conclude a peace deal before the end of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's term next year.

The rebel group was instrumental in the safe release on Thursday of kidnapped Columban missionary Michael Sinnott, who was held captive for over a month by gunmen in the strife-torn southern region of Mindanao.

The MILF is the largest of the Muslim rebel groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao. It first entered into peace talks the government in 1997.