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Indonesian President Marks Eid al-Adha with Aceh Tsunami Victims

Scott Bobb

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited tsunami-devastated Aceh province to mark the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Prophet celebrations with fellow Muslims.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Friday flew to Banda Aceh to show solidarity with the region's people and console the hundreds of thousands of Tsunami victims.

President Yudhoyono told reporters he was grateful for the international relief effort that has included thousands of volunteers as well as troops from a half-dozen foreign nations.

"I do hope that this cooperation can be continued and of course, even (as) we are preparing for the rehabilitation and reconstruction," he said. "But I think the emergency relief operation will be continued for, could be, a few months ahead."

The Indonesian president acknowledged that Vice-President Jusuf Kalla last week called for all foreign troops to be out of Indonesia by March 26, but he called it a timeline, not a deadline.

"We do hope in three months time we are able to achieve significant results during the emergency relief operation," he said. "But after March 26 there might be still an international presence, the equipment, the personnel or the expertise that are needed to continue the works."

The Indonesian leader made the remarks as Singapore announced it was ending its relief efforts along Aceh's hard-hit western coast and the U.S. government said it was scaling back its airlift because emergency aid is reaching most of the one-half million homeless people.

Earlier in the day, President Yudhoyono celebrated the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday by attending morning prayers at Banda Aceh's main mosque.

Several thousand people gathered just after dawn outside the centuries-old sanctuary, whose minaret was cracked by last month's earthquake but which otherwise is undamaged by the following tsunami.

After prayers, the faithful heard the speaker, a former governor of Aceh, deliver an emotional call for peace in the region which, in addition to last month's disaster, has suffered a 30-year old separatist insurgency.

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