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Philippines willing to resume peace talks with Muslim rebels

SHARE Philippines willing to resume peace talks with Muslim rebels

MANILA, Philippines (Reuters) -- Philippine President Joseph Estrada said on Saturday his government was willing to resume peace talks with a rebel Muslim group in an effort to end strife on the southern island of Mindanao.

"For the good of the country, we will meet with the MILF leaders anytime, as long as it's in the Philippines," Estrada said on his weekly radio and TV program.But Estrada warned the government would not back down if the rebels violated a cease-fire.

Fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) broke out in Mindanao in the southern Philippines early this week, killing at least 16 people.

The clashes lasted for three days until a cease-fire was declared at 6 a.m. Thursday.

"If they want peace, we will give them peace. If they want violence, we will give them violence. This is not a threat; it's just for those who insist on breaking the law."

The president said the situation in Mindanao was "under control."

But he reiterated that the government would tolerate no violence during the cease-fire, even though the MILF has said breakaway groups were behind clashes after the cease-fire.

"The government has been very patient . . . (But) we will not allow them to fool us," he said.