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Indonesia: Cease-Fire Reached in Aceh Province - 2002-11-19

The government of Indonesia and separatist rebels in the western province of Aceh plan to sign a ceasefire agreement in three weeks. The agreement is aimed at ending 26 years of violence and starting formal negotiations on the future of the province.

The Henri Dunant Center, which is mediating peace talks between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, announced Tuesday the two sides will sign a ceasefire. A spokesman for the Swiss-based center, Andy Andrea, tells VOA the agreement was reached Monday night in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province. "We are confident that the government of the Republic of Indonesia and the GAM are very much committed to reach an agreement," he says. "A few issues need to be resolved but we are planning for a signing of a peace agreement on the ninth of December this year."

The Henri Dunant Center has been mediating between the two sides for two years, trying to end decades of violence in which an estimated 12,000 people have been killed.

The rebels have agreed to consider a government proposal to grant political autonomy to the region and give it control of 70 percent of its oil and timber revenues. But they say they have not abandoned their ideal of an independent Aceh. Teams of observers have been visiting Aceh's urban areas since last Saturday to prepare for the deployment of 150 peace monitors.

The monitors will represent the rebels, the Jakarta government and the Henri Dunant Center. Military officials from Asia and Europe and local civilian leaders will to join the teams.

Sources close to the talks say the ceasefire agreement will include holding elections and forming joint committees to investigate ceasefire violations and human rights abuses. Within a month of the ceasefire, special zones are to be designated, such as schools and mosques, where rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts can begin.

However, the peace process has been marred by continuing clashes between the two sides. For several days, government troops have laid siege to rebels in a remote area southeast of Banda Aceh.

Government officials say they are not attacking the rebels, but are trying to keep them in one place until they sign the agreement. A military spokesman Tuesday said one soldier was killed and two others wounded in a clash the previous day.