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'Sulu Sultan won't pull out men from Sabah'

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - The Sultanate of Sulu said Tuesday that it is ready to face charges as it insisted that its men will not leave Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia.

“Whatever happens the Sultanate is ready to face the consequences,” said Abraham Idjirani, secretary general Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, reacting to President Benigno Aquino III's announcement, urging the sultan to order his people to move out of Lahad Datu.

Idjirani said that the sultanate will not abandon its claim.

“Ano pa ba ang dapat natin ipakita with all the historical fact. Walang nilabag na batas ang Sultanate of Sulu in allowing our people in coming to our homeland,” Idjirani quoting sultan Kiram as saying.

Idjirani said that the Sulu Sultan has conveyed to Aquino that the standoff in Sabah can be peacefully settled through negotiations.

Idjirani said if an agreement that is acceptable to the sultanate is reached, they are willing to surrender the firearms to the Philippine government. However, he said that the 200 members of the sultanate who arrived in Lahad Datu last week will not leave the place.

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Meanwhile, Idjirani assured that the situation in Lahad Datu remained calm and no one from the members of the sultanate have withdrawn from the area.

Earlier, President Aquino called on Kiram to order his people to leave Lahad Datu.

“And so this is my appeal to you: These are your people, and it behooves you to recall them. It must be clear to you that this small group of people will not succeed in addressing your grievances, and that there is no way that force can achieve your aims,” the President said.

“You are a leader of your clan, and every leader seeks the well-being of his constituents. These times require you to use your influence to prevail on our countrymen to desist from this hopeless cause,” he added.

According to the President, Philippine and Malaysian authorities have been coordinating efforts to peacefully resolve the situation.

“What is clear is that a peaceful resolution of this issue is to everybody’s interest. Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that there are legitimate grievances, the presence of an armed group in Lahad Datu will only bring us further away from resolving these issues,” the President said.

“From the three extensions of the deadline given by Malaysia, to the constant coordination as events unfolded, our efforts have not ceased,” he stressed.

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