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Saturday, 3 June, 2000, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Irian Jaya debates self-rule
Villagers in Nabire, Enarotai Island
Villagers check broadcasts after earlier reports of independence
Riot police are on the streets of the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, as a congress of local leaders moves towards declaring independence.

The riot squads are deployed in the capital, Jayapura, where 3,000 delegates are attending the Papuan People's Congress.
Fragile Archipelago

The Indonesian Government has warned the delegates - who include tribal leaders, rebel representatives, students, church leaders and non-governmental organisations - not to declare independence.

But correspondents say a political statement affirming independence was adopted on Saturday, to wild cheers from delegates.

A formal declaration is expected to be made on Sunday, when the conference is due to end after being extended into a seventh day.


Jayapura
Riot police are said to on the streets of Jayapura
The congress is being seen as a landmark event for Irian Jaya.

It is the first time since the province's leaders voted in 1969 to join Indonesia, that representatives of the local population have held such a large event to discuss their future.

On Friday the congress accepted a motion condemning the 1969 vote as flawed.

Many have never accepted the so-called Act of Free Choice, in which a small number of local leaders voted in favour of the move.

Duress

Many local people say the vote was carried out under duress.

Rebels fighting for independence have continued a low intensity guerrilla war against the security forces since the 1960s.


Wamena government office
Delegates rejected the 1969 vote which took them into Indonesia
Irian Jaya, on the western half of the island of New Guinea, is rich in minerals, including gold and copper.

The Indonesian Government has categorically ruled out any other provinces breaking away from the republic, after East Timor became independent last year.

The government fears the disintegration of the whole country.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, who had been invited to officially open the congress, backed out, over fears it would send the wrong signal to the local population.

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See also:

29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya looks to future
01 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya: A troubled history
21 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Papuan dreams of independence
20 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cash for Indonesian trouble spots
01 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia apologises to Irian Jaya
01 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jayans call for independence
01 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Morning Star flies in Irian Jaya
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