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Indonesia Still Committed to Aceh Cease-Fire - 2002-12-23

There are fresh reports of killings in the restive Indonesian province of Aceh, just two weeks after separatist rebels signed a peace deal with the Indonesian government. But the government says it is still committed to the agreement.

Reports from Aceh said that at least eight people, including three members of the security forces, were killed over the past few days.

It is believed to be the first time that government forces have been killed in the province since the Free Aceh Movement and the government signed a deal to end the hostilities two weeks ago.

A military spokesman called the killings "a serious stain" on the peace agreement, but said the military and the police are still under orders to respect the ceasefire.

It was not clear what led to the fighting. The military said rebels ambushed the troops, but the rebels accuse the military of raiding a rebel camp.

A spokesman for the team of international peace monitors who are overseeing the implementation of the deal, said he had discussed the shootings with both the separatists and the government.

He said he hoped there would be no repetition of the violence.

Analysts say that the agreement signed on December ninth represents the best chance to end the violence, which has killed more than 12,000 people over nearly three decades. But they say that there is still an enormous amount of work to be done if the pact is to bring a lasting end to one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

Aceh rebels have been fighting for independence from Jakarta since the late 1970s. The peace agreement allows Aceh to keep most of the revenue from its rich natural resources, and gives the province greater autonomy.