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Indonesian Peace Plan Holds Despite Military-Rebel Standoff - 2002-11-16

Foreign observers arrived in the Indonesian province of Aceh Saturday to monitor a plan to end 26 years of civil war. The observers arrived as Indonesian troops continued a week-long siege of a rebel camp. The rebels say they support the peace plan in principle, but they say the troops must withdraw or the rebels will start shooting instead of talking peace.

A standoff between Indonesian military forces and rebel troops in the West Indonesian province of Aceh continued Saturday, even as international observers arrived to oversee the proposed peace plan.

The rebels set a Sunday deadline for the military to withdraw. If they do not, the rebels said they will start shooting. Hundreds of Indonesian troops have been besieging the rebel camp in Cot Trieng, North Aceh, for a week. They say they will stay until the rebels surrender and sign the peace plan.

The plan is being brokered by Switzerland's Henri Dunant Center. It aims to end 26 years of bloodshed and civil war, which has cost some 12,000 lives in the past decade.

The plan offers more autonomy for the province's four million people, elections for a provincial legislature and administration, and a cessation of violence.

A spokesman for the Free Aceh Movement, said that while his troops agreed in principle to the plan, they would be unwilling to sign while under siege.

The peace plan would mark an end to the bloodshed in the natural resource gas and oil rich province, which earns the central government in Jakarta millions of dollars in revenue each year. Many in Aceh claim that not enough of that money has been returned to the province for development.

The peace plan calls for the setting up of a 150 member team of monitors, including 50 mostly ex-military representatives from Europe and Southeast Asia.

This team would be operational within a month after the accord is signed, and would monitor security, investigate violations and be the point of reference for all complaints.