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Indonesia bids for Aceh peace deal before Ramadan JAKARTA - Indonesia made a final effort to strike a peace deal with separatist rebels in the troubled province of Aceh on Sunday in a bid to stem the violence before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins later this week. The exiled leadership of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) said on Thursday the rebels would halt military operations during Ramadan but needed more time to iron out a "few issues" and were only prepared to sign a deal in early December.
"Our wish is (to sign the deal) before Ramadan. They want a delay while we still want to move ahead. The sooner the better," Indonesia's Chief Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted by Antara news agency as saying.Yudhoyono said signing a deal during Ramadan was better than no deal but said a military ceasefire was not enough.
."With a formal signing of a peace agreement, it is expected that conflicts in the field can be fully stopped. So we don't just want a ceasefire, we want a peace agreement."Ramadan is due to begin in the world's largest Muslim nation around November 6. The decades-long separatist war in the staunchly Muslim province on the northern tip of Sumatra island has claimed thousands of lives.
There are almost daily clashes between rebels and security forces which have mocked more than two years of largely ineffective peace talks facilitated by the Geneva-based Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC).The last peace deal fizzled out in May and there have been several failed attempts to broker a fresh pact. In August high-profile retired American general Anthony Zinni -- who has served as Washington's special envoy to the Middle East -- visited the province to talk to the warring sides but to little avail.
Speaking to Reuters by telephone from Banda Aceh, some 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Jakarta, a rebel spokesman said escalating violence in recent months prompted the latest delay. "We regret the delay but we have to do it because the conditions in the field are not good and not supportive," spokesman Teungku Sofyan said.
"The Indonesian military and the police are still launching their military aggression against the people of Aceh. In fact, there has been an increase in aggression during September-October," he added. Meanwhile, Aceh police have been holding a British and an American woman in the province since September, accusing them of associating with the rebels. Prosecutors are deciding whether to press charges against them.
Police say Briton Lesley McCulloch and American Joy Sadler are suspected of abusing their tourist visas after they were found in possession of materials on GAM in remote southern Aceh. On Sunday, local media quoted Sadler, a nurse, saying her health was deteriorating due to her HIV-related condition.



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 03 November 2002 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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