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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Concern over Aceh peace deal
GAM rebels
Aceh's separatist war has claimed thousands of lives
The international community has urged rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh, and the Jakarta administration, to stick to their peace agreement, which has suffered several serious setbacks.

The US, Japan, the European Union and the World Bank issued a joint statemet urging both sides to refrain from violence, and reaffirming "in the strongest possible terms" their support for the peace deal.

The agreement, which was signed on 9 December 2002, was hailed as a major breakthrough in halting more than two decades of hostilities in the Indonesian province.

If there is a bloodbath, then we have to face it
Teungku Iskandar Al Pasai, Gam spokesman
But recent violence, and attacks on international monitors, have seriously jeopardised the pact.

On Tuesday, international monitors who were overseeing the fragile ceasefire were withdrawn from their regional offices and relocated to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

The move was prompted by fears for the safety of international staff after intimidation and attacks on their offices.

Tuesday was one of the worst days of violence in Aceh in recent months. At least nine alleged separatist rebels were killed by the Indonesian military.

Gam (Free Aceh Movement) and the Indonesian government blame each other for the recent upsurge in violence.

Wirjono Sastrohandojo, an Indonesian official who brokered the peace deal on behalf of the government, said that Gam was "in material breach of the agreement".

In an interview with the Jakarta Post on Thursday, he claimed that Gam had been forcefully recruiting young people, exhorting illegal taxes from the population, and was failing to adhere to the agreement's timetable on demilitarisation.

Gam denied the claims. A spokesman for the movement, Teungku Iskandar Al Pasai, told the BBC's Indonesian service that the Indonesian military was to blame for the deterioration in relations.

"They violated all of the agreement. They attacked us first. Why should we be blamed?", he said.

Independence

The main sticking point in the peace deal is the question of independence.

The peace deal in December was signed on the premise of autonomy for the province, but Gam has refused to give up its quest for independence from Indonesia.

This has infuriated the Indonesian military, who have said that they are ready to go back to war with Gam.

The army's chief for general affairs, Djamari Chaniago, said that they were preparing a "huge number of reinforcement troops for Aceh".

And Indonesia's Security Minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, confirmed that the Indonesian Government was going to take military action.

"We have to send our military to Aceh. There is no other way for us," he said.

Gam's spokesman, Mr Al Pasai, said that his group, too, was prepared for war.

"If there is a bloodbath, then we have to face it," he told the BBC.

Indonesia currently has 21,000 troops in the province, whilst Gam is said to have less than 5,000 members.


SEE ALSO:
Aceh peace monitors besieged
07 Apr 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Violence threatens Aceh deal
04 Apr 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Key test for Aceh peace deal
27 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Peace monitors attacked in Aceh
03 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Will Aceh's deal work?
08 Dec 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Aceh's separatists
09 Dec 02  |  Asia-Pacific


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