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BBC's Jakarta correspondent Richard Galpin
"The resolution was greeted with wild cheers from delegates"
 real 28k

Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Irian Jaya declared independent
Demonstrators carry Free West Papua banned flag
Demonstrators march through Jayapura
Activists in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya have declared the region independent, ending what they say is 37 years of oppressive rule.

Fragile Archipelago
At the end of a week-long conference in the capital, Jayapura, more than 2,500 delegates representing 250 tribal groups called on the world to recognise West Papua - as they term the region - as a sovereign state.

Gold and copper-rich West Papua was annexed in 1963 by Indonesia and renamed Irian Jaya, a process formalised by the United Nations six years later.

This declaration does not mean Papua is separating from Indonesia because ... Papua never became part of Indonesia

Pro-independence leader Theys Eluay
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has said he will reject any calls for secession by Irian Jaya and riot squads have been deployed in the capital.

Leaders of the congress are hoping to open negotiations with the government in Jakarta as well as with the United Nations, the former colonial power, Holland, and the United States.

Separatist pressures in Irian Jaya and Aceh have been among the biggest challenges facing Mr Wahid since he became Indonesia's first democratically-elected president in October last year.

East Timor's break from Jakarta's rule last year, after an independence ballot which sparked a bloody backlash from pro-Jakarta militias and the Indonesian security forces, has fanned the separatist pressure.

'Sham vote'

Tribal leaders arrive in Jayapura for the conference
But the Irian Jaya activists said that a 1969 UN-run vote in favour of joining Indonesia was a sham and that West Papua has been independent since 1961 when the former colonial ruler, the Netherlands, handed over the territory to Jakarta.

Pro-independence leader Theys Eluay said West Papua would aim to seek independence through negotiation and peaceful means. The remote province includes one of the world's largest copper and gold mines, the Grasberg mine in which US-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold has a majority stake.

Indonesian police remove independence flags in Aceh on Sunday
But many of its people remain poor, and separatist leaders say Jakarta has plundered its resources with little given in return.

Like Aceh province in Sumatra, Irian Jaya has long had a low-level guerrilla movement against Jakarta rule.

A truce with rebels in Aceh, aimed at ending violence there, came into effect on Friday and there have been no reports of major unrest in the province since then.

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See also:

03 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya debates self-rule
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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