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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 07:08 GMT
Aceh rebels 'not ready to retreat'
Indonesian soldiers question Acehnese woman at checkpoint
Indonesia has poured troops into troubled Aceh

Sources close to the Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia say there are still significant obstacles to a peace agreement with the Indonesian government which is due to be signed on 9 December.

Peace process
Immediate ceasefire
150 international monitors to oversee 'peace zones'
Prepare for free elections by 2004
Rebels to put their arms "in storage"
Indonesian military to stop its offensive

Representatives of the movement in Aceh say they are still not ready to retreat to defensive positions and begin handing over their weapons.

The Indonesian government has threatened to seal off the province and try to crush the rebels if they do not sign the agreement.

More than 1,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed this year in the brutal war between the Acehnese rebels and the Indonesian military.

That is actually an improvement on last year.

But there is an unmistakeable war-weariness in this province, which has helped push the two sides closer to signing a peace deal than at any time in the 26-year-long conflict.

Map of Indonesia showing Aceh and Jakarta
Mediators from the Geneva-based Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue say an agreement based on Indonesia's offer of substantial autonomy should be signed in December.

But the Free Aceh Movement still has strong reservations.

In particular, the rebels say they are reluctant to hand over their weapons to international monitors and retreat to agreed positions because they do not trust the Indonesian military not to attack them.

They point to the example of East Timor in 1999, where the military violated promises to maintain order.

The persistent abuses of civilians by troops and police has alienated much of the local population.

But Indonesia will not agree to pull them out for fear the province would then declare its independence.

For the moment, the rebels are well-armed and willing to fight on.

But they are finding it increasingly difficult to raise funds for their armed struggle from a population which is tired of being plundered by forces from both sides.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Marty Natalegawa, Indonesian foreign ministry
"We intend to have an agreement signed by 9 December"
Teungku Agam, GAM's military spokesman in Aceh
"The Indonesian Government - we cannot trust them"


See also:

19 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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