COTABATO CITY, Philippines, (Reuters) - Muslim fighters want the Philippine government to halt an offensive in the southern Mindanao region and revive peace talks to end a decades-old conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, a rebel leader said on Wednesday. But for a peace deal to be successful, the government must come up with a viable proposal that would give some level of self-rule for Muslims in the southern Philippines, said Mohaqher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the countrys largest Muslim group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The civilised and practical way of solving the conflict in Mindanao is through a negotiated political settlement, Iqbal told Reuters in an interview. We know the Philippine government cannot defeat us militarily and we cant defeat the army, so let us stop the killing and burning of houses, said Iqbal, who returned from a visit to London and Belfast last week following the British governments invitation to study the Northern Ireland peace deal. He said the government should show some flexibility and more political maturity in the peace talks, as London and Dublin had demonstrated by renouncing strategic interests in Northern Ireland and showing a willingness to amend their constitution to support a peace deal. He said the two states allowed Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland to sort out their political and sectarian differences, and respecting their right for self-determination. That is what the MILF wants the government to do, show more political maturity, sincerity and firm determination to end the conflict through a negotiated political settlement, he added. We also want the international community to play a more active role in the talks and make sure Manila will not back out from its commitment. Northern Ireland has enjoyed relative peace since a 1998 deal ended the predominantly Catholic Irish Republican Armys campaign to end British control of the province and unite the island of Ireland. Fighting has escalated in the oil and gas-rich marshlands in Mindanao in the last two months, forcing nearly 350,000 people to flee from their homes and farms and pushing back peace talks stalled since August 2008. The 40-year Muslim conflict is driving away potential investments into the impoverished south believed to be sitting on rich deposits of minerals, oil and natural gas. The government ended peace negotiations in August after a deal to expand an existing Muslim autonomous region on Mindanao was stopped by the Supreme Court. That angered rouge elements of the MILF who attacked largely Catholic communities, burning homes and farms, and killing civilians, forcing the army to launch punitive offensives. Nearly 600 people have been killed since then, many of them civilians caught in the fighting, and about 2,000 houses in Maguindanao province alone were burned down. Early last month, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the government wants a true ceasefire with Muslim rebels properly monitored by an international peacekeeping team.