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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 11:10 GMT
Aceh rebels disband armed units
Members of the Free Aceh Movement hand over their weapons. File photo
Weapons have been handed over to international monitors
Separatist rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh say their armed wing has been officially disbanded, in line with a landmark peace agreement.

A Free Aceh Movement (Gam) spokesman said it was committed to implementing the deal reached with the government.

Under its terms, the former rebels were to hand over their weapons in return for Aceh receiving more autonomy from the central government.

The agreement is designed to end 26 years of bitter conflict.

The last government troops are due to pull out of Aceh on Thursday.

Tsunami trigger

The announcement came after a meeting between rebel leaders and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Aceh.

Gam gives up all 840 of its weapons in four stages
Government withdraws 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

"On behalf of Gam combatants I have the honour to announce that TNA (Aceh National Armed Forces) has been decommissioned and demobilised," spokesman Sofyan Daud said.

The statement formalises what has already happened in practice, the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says.

Over the past few months rebel units have been abandoning their mountain camps and returning to their villages.

Former rebels have handed in more than 800 weapons to international monitors.

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 our correspondent says 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.

The tsunami prompted the two sides to get back to the negotiating table.

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

The first is the integration of 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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