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Agreement reached in Aceh war



Published: Sat, July 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The draft accord must be approved by the Indonesian government.

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- The Indonesian government and separatist Aceh rebels reached a tentative agreement Saturday to end one of the world's longest-running wars, negotiators from both sides said.

The draft accord, which hinged on an agreement to allow the separatist Free Aceh Movement to form its own political party, will have to be approved by the Indonesian government before the two sides can initial it.

"We have worked out a mutually acceptable form of words on political parties" in the draft accord, said Damien Kingsbury, an Australian academic who is part of the Acehnese delegation at talks in the Finnish capital. "This should in principle finalize the negotiations."

Hamid Awaluddin, Indonesia's minister of justice, who is heading the government delegation at the talks, declined to disclose details about the draft agreement, saying it would be finalized today.

"Thank God, finally we had sort of an understanding together," he said.

More work to be done

The two sides are scheduled to meet again in Helsinki in mid-August to formally sign the agreement ending the war.

The rebels have agreed to set aside their demand for independence but insist the government give them the right to form a local political party in Aceh, an oil- and gas-rich province at the tip of Sumatra island that has been wracked by a separatist conflict since 1976 and was ravaged by the Asian tsunami on Dec. 26.

Indonesian electoral law allows only for nationally based political groupings, an effort to prevent far-flung parts of the ethnically and religiously diverse archipelago from breaking away from the central government, as East Timor did in 1999.

Currently, every party in Indonesia must have representation in at least half of the country's 32 provinces and must be headquartered in Jakarta.

The government has proposed allowing candidates of the Free Aceh Movement run for office as members of existing Indonesian parties. But the Acehnese have rejected the offer, saying they seek a comprehensive and democratic solution that would allow all groups in Aceh to form political parties.

A peace accord would allow members of the Acehnese government in exile in Sweden to return to the region and run for office.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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