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Report calls for focus on cease-fire

BRUSSELS, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Without addressing the causes of why peace talks collapsed in the Philippines, any new progress is unlikely, a report from the International Crisis Group says.

The Belgium-based independent non-governmental organization says that despite a renewed effort by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to restart peace talks with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front, any likely chance of ending the conflict in the southern Mindanao region will be undermined unless the root causes of the conflict are addressed.

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The report, titled "The Philippines: Running in Place in Mindanao," says that a peace deal faces numerous "spoilers" and a "weak" political climate to achieve a negotiated peace in the near term.

Crisis Group officials in the report call on the Philippine government and MILF leaders to focus first on establishing a cease-fire in central Mindanao, where three MILF generals waged violent attacks in August that led to the death of dozens of citizens and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, the Crisis Group reported.

"Peace is not around the corner in Mindanao," John Virgoe, Crisis Group South East Asia project director, said in a statement.

"But getting a cease-fire in central Mindanao would be an important achievement in humanitarian terms alone."

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