Muslim rebels in Philippines to start turning over weapons as part of peace accord

Muslim guerrillas in the Philippines will begin turning over their weapons as part of a peace deal even as lawmakers are still debating a law creating a new autonomous Muslim region in the country's south.

Chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer said Thursday that President Benigno Aquino III will be the guest of honor at the ceremonial turnover of high-powered weapons next week. She said about 145 guerrillas of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front also will be decommissioned.

Rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says rebels agreed to hand over their weapons to an independent group despite the delay in the passage of the law creating the new autonomous region.

The rebels last year dropped their demand for a separate state in exchange for broader autonomy.