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Indonesia Asks Europe, ASEAN to Monitor Peace Agreement in Aceh

The government of Indonesia has asked European and Southeast Asian nations to monitor an approaching peace agreement in the northern province of Aceh. The request came during ministerial meetings in Laos.

The spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Marty Natalegawa, told reporters that his government has approached the European Union and several countries of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to provide monitors in Aceh after a peace deal is signed as early as August 15.

"The mission that we have in mind, it will not be military forces," he said. "It will be more by way of observers who will be unarmed."

He noted many details have yet to be finalized, but other Indonesian delegates indicated the mission would number about two hundred monitors.

Rebels of the Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, have been fighting for independence for three decades - a conflict in which 12,000 people have been killed.

Under the peace accord to be signed in Finland in two weeks, GAM will lay down its arms in exchange for autonomy and a significant withdrawal of Indonesian security forces.

The foreign affairs chief of the European Union, Javier Solana - in Vientiane for the ASEAN Meetings - said the European Union had agreed to lead the monitoring mission in cooperation with ASEAN. "The Indonesians have contacted at least five ASEAN countries," he said. "Probably they will say 'yes.' It still is not clear what will be the numbers. It will depend very much on the finalization of the agreement."

Mr. Solana noted that Europe had facilitated the lengthy negotiations between Jakarta and the rebels, and these came about during relief efforts that followed the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Aceh last December.

The disaster killed nearly 200,000 people in Aceh and made 600,000 homeless. Mr. Solana said the peace accord would speed up the estimated $5 billion reconstruction effort currently underway in the region.