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Philippine Rebels Release Peace Negotiators


Philippine officials say separatist rebels have released a group of high-level government peace negotiators after holding them for two days on the southern island of Jolo.

Officials say the Moro National Liberation Front released Brigadier-General Ben Dolorfino and at least 19 others Sunday after the rebels received assurances that the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, would meet to discuss a 1996 peace agreement.

Peace talks involving the rebels, the OIC and government officials had been scheduled for next week in Saudi Arabia, but Manila angered the rebels when it decided to postpone the talks.

Dolorfino had denied that his group was being held hostage. He said the rebels treated the peace negotiators as special guests at their camp near Jolo's Panamao town.

The Moro National Liberation Front is one of the largest of the groups that have been fighting for decades to establish a Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines.

Most of the Philippine's population is Christian, but a sizable Muslim community lives in the south.

The government has held peace talks with the separatists sporadically for more than a decade.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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