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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Aceh rebels warn of 'war'
Armed Indonesian soldiers guard a mountain area in Lamno village, Aceh
Jakarta has issued Aceh rebels a deadline of Monday

Indonesia's troubled province of Aceh is close to renewed conflict, separatists from the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) have warned, as police arrested four of their negotiators.

Gam ordered its fighters to take up defensive positions and cancelled all leave, after a fragile ceasefire agreed last December appeared to be crumbling.

The Indonesian government is reinforcing its military presence in the province and has issued a deadline of Monday for the rebels to accept its terms for further talks.

But the BBC's Jakarta correspondent says the rebels show no sign of backing down.

The nation of Aceh today is entering the Second Colonial War
Gam spokesman Sofyan Dawood

"The situation in the nation of Aceh today is entering the Second Colonial War," Gam spokesman Sofyan Dawood said in a statement, comparing Jakarta to Dutch colonisers who invaded Aceh in the late 19th century.

His comments came as police detained four Gam members of a joint committee established to monitor the ceasefire, according to a Gam official. It was not clear why they had been arrested.

Jakarta has already sent 3,000 troops to Aceh in the event of resumed hostilities. Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Friday that a presidential decree, authorising a "security operation" in the province, had been prepared.

There is speculation that the decree will be issued on Monday if Gam does not accept demands that it abandon its goal of independence and resume talks aimed at saving the December peace deal.

The rebels did not appear ready to concede to Jakarta on Friday.

They warned that strategic installations, such as the oil and gas plant run by the American company Exxon Mobil, should shut down, as they could be used by the Indonesian military as operational bases.

Breakdown

There was initial optimism when Gam and the government agreed to the 9 December peace deal, designed to bring an end to the 26-year conflict which has claimed at least 12,000 lives.

Under the terms of the agreement, the rebels were supposed to place their weapons in special arms dumps, and the Indonesian military was meant to withdraw to defensive positions.

Neither Jakarta nor Gam has so far fulfilled its side of the bargain, and both sides continue to blame each other for the breakdown in relations.

Violent incidents are on the increase, with thousands of villagers fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in local mosques and schools.

The EU, US and Japan, who co-chaired a Tokyo conference last December on aid for Aceh, on Friday urged both sides to strive for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, defended a possible crackdown in the territory.

"Honestly, what we are doing or will do in Aceh is much less than the American power that was deployed in Iraq. We aren't violating anyone's sovereignty," he said.




SEE ALSO:
Indonesia training Aceh 'militias'
07 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Jakarta threatens Aceh rebels
06 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Aceh peace talks 'still possible'
28 Apr 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Concern over Aceh peace deal
10 Apr 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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