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Indonesia Gov't Sets Conditions for Meeting with Aceh Rebels - 2003-04-28


The Indonesian government says it wants separatist rebels in Aceh Province to formally drop demands for independence. It is the only way the government says it will return to the negotiating table in order to try to salvage Aceh's peace plan.

Indonesia's top security minister said the government is not issuing an ultimatum to rebels from the "Free Aceh Movement." But Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there are conditions for holding an emergency meeting with the rebels to iron out problems in the fragile peace deal.

Speaking in Jakarta Monday, Mr. Yudhoyono said the rebels must issue an explicit and formal statement acknowledging the peace plan they signed calls for special autonomy and readiness to disarm.

The December nineth agreement between the rebels and government rules out independence but gives Aceh stronger local governing powers and more of a share in revenue derived from oil and gas resources.

But in the last four months, a serious disagreement has emerged in interpretation. The rebels say they can still campaign for independence and hold a vote on it, since the peace deal gives them broad enough powers to determine their political future.

The issue has put the whole peace process in jeopardy.

The Indonesia government was due to meet the rebels last week in Geneva, Switzerland to try to salvage the deal - but withdrew after disputes over the dates.

Mr. Yudyhono said Monday the government is going to monitor the situation in Aceh over the next week or two before it makes any decisions on what should be done next.

Two decades of separatist violence in Aceh Province has claimed thousands of lives.