Philippines To Raise Attacks In Norway Talks

The Philippine government will call for a halt to recent attacks by communist rebels that have killed more than 100 civilians and soldiers during a proposed resumption of Norwegian-brokered peace talks, an official said Tuesday (18 Nov).
   Government negotiators also will reiterate a demand that the 5,000-strong New People’s Army agree to a cease-fire and stop attacks on foreign mining companies, presidential peace talks adviser Hermogenes Esperon said.
   “It’s really hard to talk when you could not even agree to have a cease-fire,” Esperon said.
   The rebels have spurned similar calls in the past, saying any truce with government troops before a peace agreement is concluded would be tantamount to surrender of their 40-year insurrection.
   The rural-based Maoist insurgents have stepped up attacks across the Philippines, targeting police and soldiers to seize weapons and foreign mining companies and other big businesses to extort funds.
   The rebels backed out of peace talks brokered by Norway in 2004, saying the Philippine government instigated their inclusion on U.S. and European terrorist blacklists. Norway has been trying to revive the process by arranging “exploratory talks.”
   A proposed informal meeting in Norway could be held as early as this month. The government intends to demand inclusion of discussion on a wave of rebel atrocities in the last 10 months, including 104 killings, 66 arson attacks, 14 kidnappings, 10 bombings, five robberies and four land mine blasts, Esperon told a news conference.
   Rebel attacks on foreign mining firms and local construction companies and bombings of cell phone transmission towers have gravely affected the economy and people in far-flung provinces, he said.
   “If they claim to be pro-people, why go on with these?” Esperon asked.
   President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dismisses the rebels as an ideologically spent force and has ordered the 120,000-strong military to defeat them by the time her term ends in 2010.

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