Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Truce agreed in Irian Jaya
The military commander in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya says he has agreed a cease-fire with rebels there. It is the first time the Indonesian armed forces has opened formal negotiations with rebels. This report from Jonathan Head in Jakarta:
The announcement of a cease-fire between the Indonesian armed forces and the OPM rebels was unexpected.
In the past, the military has dismissed the OPM as no more than a gang of hoodlums and it had given no indication that it was prepared to change its view.
Now, the regional commander General Simbering says his troops won't confront the OPM fighters and he has promised they will no longer carry weapons into the villages.
In return, he said, the OPM had pledged not to attack military or civilian targets.
The sudden improvement in relations between the two sides started last month when the local OPM commander agreed to release a group of Indonesian hostages and he sent three couriers to start discussions with the military.
But the agreement so far only involves one of several OPM groups fighting against Indonesian rule in Irian Jaya.
It isn't yet clear how other rebel commanders in this huge and remote province will react to the cease-fire - if they have even heard about it.
There has been a marked increase in separatist activity in Irian Jaya since the change in government in Jakarta in May.
Back in July, pro-independence demonstrations took place in several towns in then province. At least two people died when Indonesian soldiers suppressed those protests.
At the time, the military leadership warned that it would not tolerate open displays of anti-Indonesian feeling in Irian Jaya.
If this cease-fire does lead to a more conciliatory approach now by the military that at least will be widely welcomed in a province which has long been plagued by human rights abuses.