Updated: 12/08/2013 22:44 | By Agence France-Presse

Philippines, Muslim rebels sign 'power-sharing' accord

The Philippine government and the main Muslim rebel group on Sunday signed a crucial power-sharing accord, paving the way for a final peace agreement, government statements said.

Philippines, Muslim rebels sign 'power-sharing' accord

A combat police force sniper gets into position to confront Moro National Liberation Front rebels in downtown Zamboanga City in the Philippines on September 9, 2013

The accord, signed by negotiators from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, is another step towards finally ending a decades-long Muslim rebel insurgency in the south that claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

"The signing of the Annex on Power Sharing ensures the achievement of a genuine and viable autonomy for the Bangsamoro (Filipino Muslims)," Teresita Deles, the head of the government peace panel, said in a statement.

"It has been a very difficult round but we were able to overcome a lot of obstacles," she added.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma said the president had been informed of the signing of the annex and had congratulated both parties.

The two sides in October last year had signed an initial pact on ending the conflict, in preparation for a final agremeent.

Under the plan, the 12,000-strong MILF would give up its quest for an independent homeland in the southern island of Mindanao in return for significant power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region there.

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