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Clash in Indonesia Draws Disappointment

Indonesia is warning separatists in Aceh they will be “wiped out,” as a military offensive in the northern province continues. VOA-TV’s Jim Bertel tells us, that as the fighting intensifies, leaders of the free Aceh movement remain defiant.

Government forces stepped up their military campaign Tuesday, dropping more paratroopers into the province. No major clashes were reported, but local officials say schools, homes and government offices in many areas of the province were set on fire. Both sides in the fighting blamed each other.

A senior leader of separatist rebels in Indonesia’s Aceh province - Malik Mahmoud - says his forces can fight indefinitely to resist the government in Jakarta.

“We are ready to resist them. They tried many times in the past. We have been fighting Indonesia for 27 years. If it is needed, we will continue fighting until we will drive Indonesians out of Aceh.”

Many nations have expressed disappointment over Indonesia’s military action. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called on both sides to return to the negotiating table.

“The United States maintains its support for the territorial integrity of Indonesia, and the peaceful resolution of the Aceh conflict, based on special autonomy. At the same time it does regard the problem of Aceh as one that is not amenable to a solution by use of military force. We call on the two parties to return to the negotiating process as soon as possible.”

Indonesia’s military offensive began after weekend peace talks in Japan broke down.