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International Observers Arrive in Indonesia's Aceh Province

Indonesia's Aceh Province is cautiously welcoming Monday's peace accord between the government and separatist rebels. The deal signed in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday is being seen as the best chance the two sides have to end the 26 year conflict.

Less than 24 hours after the peace agreement was signed in Geneva, a dozen international observers arrived in Aceh's provincial capital Tuesday to begin the process of monitoring the new ceasefire.

A total of 150 monitors will be deployed in Indonesia's northern province and are from the Henry Dunant Center, the Swiss group that brokered the peace deal between the Indonesian government and separatists. Many Acehnese are cautiously welcoming the breakthrough, but say they recognize that much work lies ahead to make peace a permanent fixture in the province.

Monday's peace deal provides for a ceasefire between government soldiers and "Free Aceh Movement" rebels, troop withdrawals, rebel disarmament and regional elections for a more empowered local government by 2004.

In addition, Acehnese will be given more of the revenue derived from the province's natural resources, including oil and gas. Despite the new agreement, some Acehnese say they still want more than special autonomy and have not give up their dream of independence.

Muhammed Nazar is with SIRA , the Aceh Referendum Central Information Office. He welcomes the peace accord, but says that will only give his group a better opportunity to push of a referendum on Aceh independence. "The Indonesian government and the Aceh Free Movement have to guarantee for the people in Aceh to decide their future peacefully and democratically with a referendum or direct ballot."

Mr. Nazar says he hopes that international monitors will help the world realize that a referendum is needed in Aceh. "We want the international community to understand about the real problem here. The real problem in Aceh is [a] political problem, not economic or religion problem," he says. "We want the international community to appreciate the right of self-determination for Aceh people."

Many ordinary people in Aceh simply expressed relief that the fighting would come to an end. More than 10,000 people have died in fighting since 1976.

The World Bank held a donors conference in Tokyo last week and will help with reconstruction projects if peace in Aceh can be sustained.