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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 13:15 GMT
Indonesia completes Aceh pull-out
Indonesian soldiers leaving Aceh 18/09/05
Thousands of soldiers and police have now left
Indonesia's military has begun the last of its troop withdrawals from Aceh, in keeping with a landmark peace deal.

Officials said more than 1,600 troops would leave in coming days, meaning that troop numbers will have been cut by more than half since August.

The latest move came after Free Aceh Movement (Gam) rebels handed in all the weapons stipulated in the deal.

The peace deal, signed between rebels and the government, is designed to end 26 years of bitter conflict.

A military spokesman said the security services were set to meet a 31 December deadline for withdrawals.

Gam gives up all 840 of its weapons in four stages
Government matches that by withdrawing some 20,000 troops in four stages
Disarmament and withdrawal to be complete by 31 December
Government facilitates Aceh-based political parties
Amnesty granted to Gam members
Truth and reconciliation commission established
Aceh monitoring mission set up by EU and Asean

Under the deal, the Indonesian government is committed to stationing no more than 14,700 soldiers and 9,100 police in Aceh, all of which are to be locals.

Before the deal, Indonesia had more than 35,000 soldiers and 15,000 police in the province.

Under the peace plan, which was signed in Finland in August, the deadline for the decommissioning of rebel weapons and withdrawal of Indonesian forces was the end of the year.

But according to the BBC's Jakarta correspondent, there has always been another date in mind - 26 December, the anniversary of the tsunami disaster which destroyed huge swathes of Aceh and killed about 260,000 people.

It was the tsunami which prompted the two sides to get back to the negotiating table.

So far the peace process has gone far more smoothly than anyone expected but there are major obstacles ahead, our correspondent says.

The first is integrating former rebels back into civilian life. The other is the political future of the province.

Under the terms of the agreement, Gam should be allowed to form a local political party but that requires a change in the law which must be approved by parliament in Jakarta.

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