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Philippines, Muslim rebels sign power-sharing accord, hope to link final peace pact next month

Philippine officials have signed a power-sharing accord with the country's largest Muslim rebel group and expect to sign a final peace pact with the insurgents next month.

The accord, which outlines the powers of a larger Muslim autonomous region in the south, was signed Sunday by government negotiators and the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Malaysia, which has been brokering the yearslong talks. The accord is the third of four proposed pacts that are to comprise a final peace agreement between the two sides.

President Benigno Aquino III said Monday that the remaining accord to be tackled next month, involving rebel disarmament, is expected to be contentious.

The rebels have been fighting for decades for self-rule for minority Muslims in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.