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Guns fell silent Saturday for a third straight Christmas season, and communist rebels announced they were ready to resume peace talks with President Corazon Aquino's government.

Government officials, meanwhile, had yet to learn if the rebels kept their promise to release six soldiers captured 90 days ago in Quezon province, east of Manila, as a "Christmas gift" to their families.Civilian negotiators left at dawn for an undisclosed rendezvous with the rebels but they have yet to be heard from more than three hours after the scheduled release.

There were no reported violations of the holiday cease-fire in the predominantly Catholic nation, which was called separately by the 160,000-member armed forces and the 25,000-strong New People's Army (NPA).

"The country is normal and very peaceful," a military spokesman said.

The Manila Bulletin, the nation's largest daily, said the National Democratic Front, umbrella organization for a dozen underground groups, announced in a statement it was prepared to resume peace talks.

The announcement came in a Christmas message signed by front spokesman Saturnino Ocampo, the Bulletin said, quoting Ocampo as saying the Front was ready to reopen talks with the government and "all sincerely interested parties."

"We deeply wish for peace to reign over our land, not just for a day or two," said the message from the Communist Party of the Philippines, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary Monday.

Ocampo was one of the three rebel negotiators in earlier peace talks that collapsed Jan. 22, 1987, over rebel demands for power-sharing.

Aquino has ordered 48-hour truce periods for Christmas and New Year's Day.