The leader of the largest rebel group in the Philippines has denounced the use of terrorism and denied links with radical Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah and other terror organisations, while condemning state-initiated violence. Yet the government appears to be giving peace talks a low priority, preferring military operations and a rebel amnesty programme. Hashim Salamat, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), issued a brief statement 'rejecting terror as a means to resolve differences', just before the rebels' unilateral ceasefire ended at midnight on Saturday. It was the first time the Islamic scholar-turned-rebel had publicly denied links with Jemaah Islamiah and al-Qaeda, which the United States says are terrorist groups with interlocking networks in Asia. But a military official said it was the rebel chief's way of 'yielding' to one of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's preconditions for talks to resume. He added it was a sign the rebels were struggling in the face of military action. Mrs Arroyo has said she would only reopen talks if MILF appointed Salamat as its chief negotiator, renounced terrorism and terrorist links and 'convincingly cut clean from terrorists and criminals'. Salamat said that for the group to renounce terrorism was 'unnecessary' because that violated Islam. He also said that in a joint communique, signed with the government last year, the rebels had already agreed to 'the isolation and interdiction of all criminal syndicates' operating in the south. Still, Salamat said: 'I hereby reiterate our condemnation and abhorrence of terrorist tendencies.' This was, he stressed, 'to eschew the reverse side of the language of endemic state violence'. 'Consequently we reject and deny any link with terrorist organisations or activities in this part of the Asian region, particularly in the south Philippines and elsewhere in the world,' he said. The denial came two weeks after the capture of alleged MILF explosives expert Muklis Yunos, who has admitted a series of bombings in Manila two years ago. MILF has disowned Yunos. The presidential palace could not be reached for comment. But the government seemed to be in no hurry to talk. Mrs Arroyo has given former negotiator Norberto Gonzales a new task - to convince congress to amend the Philippine constitution. At his first press conference last week, new chief government negotiator Eduardo Ermita announced a new rebel amnesty programme.