Is Malaysia pulling out of IMT in November?

The reports triggered confusion because just recently, on August 27 this year, Malaysia, through its talks facilitator, signed “conforme” to the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines’) and MILF’s agreement requesting Malaysia to extend the tour of duty of its IMT troops for another 12 months or until August 2008 as the tour of duty of IMT-3 was ending on August 31, 2007. 

 
In fact, the IMT’s scope of coverage was even expanded to include four other provinces and a new Head of Mission had taken over what is now IMT-4.  
 
Newsbreak Online reported on October 2 that in a meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week, “Malaysian facilitators informed their Philippine counterparts that the IMT will only remain in the Philippines until November this year and that, if the talks don’t show significant progress within this period, the IMT will totally withdraw from the area.”
 
Newsbreak cited no source in the article under “Inside Track,” its intelligencer section which “features the latest buzz on juicy political and business goings on.”
 
Reuters news agency on October 2 said “government and rebel sources told Reuters the Malaysian government was getting impatient, and threatened during an informal meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week to recall its 60 monitors to pressure the sides to resume talks.”
 
Reuters did not also name its “government and rebel sources.”
 
“I have no information that Malaysia will pull out,” Davao City-based Malaysian Consul-General Mustafa Kamal Ahmad, told MindaNews Tuesday afternoon.He said he has not read a report about what transpired in Malaysia last week.
 
But he said Malaysia “has been trying to help for some time. Our resources are not inexhaustible. One day, Malaysia has to bring back its troops in IMT home if peace talks are not going anywhere.”  
 
The peace panel chairs, Secretary Rodolfo Garcia for the Philippine government and Mohagher Iqbal for the MILF, declined to comment on the report. Last week, the two also kept mum on what transpired in the two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
 
Representatives from the two panels met in Malaysia on September 25 for a “Q and A” session that should have lasted a day but was extended to the next day and culminated in an executive session that ended at 1 a.m. of September 27. 
 
“I can only say it was fruitful,” Garcia, who retired as deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told MindaNews last Saturday.  
 
Iqbal, also chair of the Front’s Information Committee, told MindaNews also last Saturday that the year-long impasse had not been resolved but “I think the road towards peace is still very bright.” 
 
“But this is up to the government,” he added but declined to elaborate.  
 
The talks ended in an impasse in early September last year on the question of territory. 
 
This year’s August 27 agreement not only provided for the extension of the IMT’s stay, it also expanded its Terms of Reference to include in its coverage, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Palawan. 
 
“Both sides affirm the substantial contribution of the IMT for almost three years in helping stabilize the ground environment in Mindanao, and in boosting international confidence to the peace process,” said the joint statement signed by Garcia and Iqbal. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews) 

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