Philippine rebels eye Timor-Leste leader's role in Muslim homeland deal, 12 December 2009

COTABATO (Xinhua) -- The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group urged today Timor-Leste (East Timor) President and Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta to pressure Manila to reconsider its decision on a deal that would create their homeland in the restive south.

Horda will be arriving in the southern city of Davao on Jan. 14 to speak on "Is Long Lasting Peace an Attainable Dream?" at the Ateneo de Davao University.

"East Timor can be helpful in the peace process. They can help us in other aspects except for facilitating the talks because we already have Malaysia," Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told a Xinhua reporter.

Kuala Lumpur had been brokering the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the rebel group.

"We welcome the concern of Horda but we want him to convince the Philippine government to honor the agreements they signed with us," Iqbal said.

At the same time, the rebel official claimed there are many lessons from Timor-Leste case, which the Philippine government can use in resolving the decades-old rebellion problem in the south.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF were suspended in August last year, when the rebels launched a spate of attacks across Mindanao that left scores dead and hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced.

Jose Ramos Horta is the second President of Timor-Leste since independence from Indonesia. He was also a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prizefor Peace.