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Indonesian President Ends Aceh Visit

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri wrapped up a two-day trip to the war torn province of Aceh by visiting with religious and community leaders.

The Indonesian president says she is confident that Aceh will recover within two years if a new peace accord holds. President Megawati Sukarnoputri expressed her government's support for a new peace accord during her two-day visit to the province. The government signed the landmark agreement last week with separatist rebels from the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM.

Saifuddin Bantasyam, head of the CARE human rights forum in Aceh, says Ms. Megawati's visit shows the people of Aceh that the government is serious about the peace process. "I think the Acehnese need support politically and morally from the leadership of Indonesia," he said. "I think the visit of Megawati could be read by the people in Aceh as the high commitment the government has now."

The 26-year conflict on the northern tip of Sumatra island has claimed more than 12,000 lives, most of them civilians.

The peace agreement obliges both sides to lay down their arms. The Indonesian military also must pull some troops out of the province. The accord grants broad autonomy to Aceh, and allows the province to keep the lion's share of the revenues from its rich natural resources.

Provincial elections are to be held in 2004, but GAM leaders say they have not dropped their demands for a separate state, something Jakarta has said it will never allow.

International monitors will arrive in Aceh this month to ensure both sides uphold the peace agreement and look into any truce violations.