CIA director Leon Panetta met Philippine President Gloria Arroyo July 12 for a closed-door security meeting—days after the UN World Food Program suspended aid work in Mindanao in response to a wave of deadly bombings. Panetta’s visit came just hours after Islamist militants in conflicted region freed an Italian Red Cross worker they had held for six months.
Arroyo accepted an invitation to meet with Barack Obama in Washington later this month. Diplomatic ties were strained after a US Marine who had participated in joint manoeuvres in the Philippines was convicted of raping a Filipino woman in 2006. An appeals court overturned the decision early this year after the victim recanted her statement. US troops have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2003 for joint anti-terror training with their Filipino counterparts. (AFP, July 12; VOA, July 8)
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