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Philippine days of emergency rule look numbered

Written by: Staff
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MANILA, March 2 (Reuters) Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo looks increasingly likely to lift emergency rule within the next few days after her security chiefs today lowered alert levels and said the threat of a coup had receded.

''The plotters that sought to undermine and bring down the government have been thwarted,'' Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez told a news conference. ''We feel that we can advise the president that the direction should be towards lifting.'' Gonzalez's rosier assessment, reversing his judgment of just a day earlier, chimed with the opinions of the defence secretary and the national police chief that the threats to the government from leftist opponents and renegade troops had subsided.

Arroyo is waiting for reports from the trio within the next two days before making a decision on ending emergency rule, which has been criticised by human rights groups for giving the government a green light to put pressure on the local media.

Earlier, the police and military lowered their maximum alert levels, halving the number of troops on standby around the country.

In Manila on an official visit, the top U.S. diplomat for Asian affairs said he welcomed Arroyo's move to review the emergency order.

''We have confidence that Filipino people will be able to deal with their problems,'' Christopher Hill told a news conference. ''We are following the events closely.'' Arroyo invoked emergency rule last week to confront what she said was an alliance of opposition members, communist groups and ''military adventurists'' conspiring to bring down her government.

MORE REUTERS KD SND1315

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