Two key Muslim groups in the Philippines have reached a so-called unity agreement after decades of rivalry. The Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had been waging separate wars against the Philippine government for years.

After two days of talks brokered by Malaysia, the two Muslim groups in the Philippines agreed to unite in an effort to bring peace to the troubled southern Philippines.

In the 1970s, the rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) began the struggle on behalf of the Muslim minority in the mostly-Catholic Philippines.

About five years ago, the group signed a peace deal with the government. MNLF leader Nur Misuari went on to become the elected governor of a four province region with a high degree of autonomy.

But a splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), continued fighting for independence and only reopened talks with the government in June.

Under the unity deal initialed Friday, the two groups will not merge, but will coordinate to speak with one voice for the country's Muslim minority in the impoverished south.

President Gloria Arroyo welcomed the pact, saying it could help end the decades-long conflict, which has left tens of thousand of people dead. The pact is expected to be signed next week when President Arroyo visits Malaysia.