The United States and the Philippines are close to reaching an agreement over U.S. military bases that would permit continued American use of the two major facilities there, Philippines Foreign Minister Raul Manglapus said Friday.

Manglapus, in an interview here, said "the gaps are closing" between the two countries' positions after nine months of intense and complex negotations. The base issue has sparked anti-American demonstrations in the Philippines and has been a volatile political issue for years in Manila.Manglapus said that while additional work needs to be done, he hoped an agreement could be signed within a month. It would then have to be ratified by a two-thirds vote in the Philippine Senate, he said, where its future is uncertain.

The major obstacles, according to Manglapus and U.S. officials, are the amount of compensation and the length of the agreement. The United States has insisted on at least a 10-year agreement while Philippine negotiators say they cannot go beyond seven years.