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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Indonesia shelves Papua division
Clashes in Papua
The two sides attacked each other with spears and arrows
The Indonesian Government has decided to shelve plans to divide Papua province into three, following violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the plan.

"Based on political and administrative considerations, the division of Papua province... has been put off," chief security minister Susilo Bambang said on Wednesday.

Tensions have been high in the Papuan town of Timika since the inauguration of Central Irian Jaya - one of the three proposed new provinces - on Saturday.

Rival groups armed with spears attacked each other in Timika's streets, leading to three days of street clashes in which three people died and dozens were injured.

Indigenous tribesmen, who mostly oppose the new province, fought against hundreds of supporters of the plan, many of whom are immigrants to Papua.

Although the situation seems to be calming down, a policeman was injured on Wednesday by tribesmen angry at the authorities' efforts to prevent a renewed clash.

Jakarta said it was splitting up the province to improve administration, but critics said the government wanted to control rising separatist sentiment, and accused the authorities of violating the special autonomy granted the mountainous province in 2001.

Willy Nandown, a mediator for the Papuan Council which represents the region's indigenous communities, told the BBC that many Papuans felt excluded under Indonesian rule.

"It's only one or two elite [people] in Papua that talk on behalf of the Papuans," he told the East Asia Today programme.

But a former Minister for Autonomy, Ryas Rashid, said the split was actually proposed four years ago.

"The three provinces were decided in 1999 but never implemented," Mr Rashid told the BBC.

"In 2003 there was a presidential instruction to bring back the decision," he said.

Keeping the peace

Police reinforcements have been flown into Timika to prevent further violence, according to the French news agency AFP.

Tribesmen have vowed not to end the violence until the same number of people have been killed from each side, according to AFP.

Two of those killed were opponents of the new province, and only one supporter of the move has died.

Police have been trying to negotiate a deal involving "compensation under tribal laws", such as the slaughter of pigs, AFP reported.

Indonesia took over Papua from the Dutch in 1963. The province changed its name from Irian Jaya in January 2002.

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