Former rebel leader Nur Misuari yesterday took over the administration of the four provinces which make up the autonomous region for Muslims in the southern Philippines. Mr Misuari founded and leads the Moro National Liberation Front, which in the early 1970s began a bloody secessionist war in Mindanao. The conflict is believed to have claimed 120,000 to 200,000 lives. On September 2, Mr Misuari signed a peace agreement with the Philippines Government. A week later he ran unopposed for governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. He was formally proclaimed winner three days later, having received 90 per cent of the votes cast. The Government reported an 80 per cent turnout. Yesterday he was sworn in by President Fidel Ramos in festive ceremonies in Cotabato City. Mr Ramos, who as a military general had ordered hundreds of thousands of troops against the Misuari-led rebel group, yesterday called Mr Misuari 'a friend and a brother'. Mr Misuari promised to work for the welfare of both Christians and Muslims. 'We envision to make our people, the nearly 20 million people of Mindanao, Christians, Muslim and highlanders, brothers to all, and play their role in the actual running of the Government.' He also appealed to all groups to work together towards the economic development of the impoverished Muslim region. The Government estimates 60 per cent of the region's population lives below the poverty line. This is as compared with the national average of 35.5 per cent. In the rest of Mindanao, the poverty rate is 47.2 per cent. The outgoing governor, Lingingding Pangandaman, said he did not run for re-election against Mr Misuari because he wanted to see an end to the conflict in Mindanao. He said he believed Mr Misuari 'will be able to steer Mindanao towards peace, and economic and socio-political growth'. As part of the peace agreement, the Government will create a Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, with Mr Misuari as chairman. The council will have a wider scope than the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, but will not have governing or police powers.