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Former Aceh rebels disband military wing
Updated: 2005-12-27 14:31

Former separatist rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province have announced the dissolution of their armed wing, in another step towards implementing a historic peace pact.

The Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed the pact in August in Helsinki after both sides dropped key demands in the wake of last December's tsunami, which killed some 168,000 Acehnese.

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

"We are committed to implement the memorandum of understanding (MOU, the peace pact) and will abide by its contents," he said, reading out a statement signed by TNA chief Muzakkir Manaf.

The former rebels surrendered their final batch of weapons last week to meet the terms of the peace deal, while non-local Indonesian troops and police are expected to pull the last of their personnel out of Aceh on Thursday.

The pact, which has been overseen by a foreign monitoring mission, has so far progressed smoothly, exceeding many analysts' expectations.

But GAM representative to the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) Irwandi Yusuf told reporters he wanted the monitors to stay on beyond their mandated stay, which is supposed to end in March.

"We would like AMM to extend their mission to monitor all of the stages of the MOU. We are entering a political process which is tricky and difficult," he said.

The Indonesian government must still pass legislation that incorporates the peace pact while GAM faces the difficult task of transforming itself into a political rather than fighting entity.

AMM comprises about 240 observers from the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

GAM held the press briefing shortly after several of their top members met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said the men were sincere in wanting to end a conflict which has claimed some 15,000 lives.

The president met with GAM spokesman Bachtiar Abdullah, who returned in October after living in exile in Sweden, as well as GAM ex-commander of Aceh Besar district, Teuku Mukhsalmina, and Yusuf.

"I see there is sincerity to end the conflict. I talked to them briefly, one by one. We have to safeguard this process," he said of the newfound peace in Aceh. Peace deals have been brokered in the past but later collapsed.

Yusuf meanwhile also dismissed reports that thousands of Indonesian troops were poised to be sent to Aceh to help rebuilding efforts in the tsunami-hit zone.

The military and the agency tasked with overseeing reconstruction last week discussed the possibility of troops assisting the effort.

"That's not going to happen. I have received information that it's not on their agenda. As long as there are still professional contractors, they should be prioritised," he said.

Yudhoyono also dismissed the reports as "not correct" but did not rule out some troops working there.

"If there is a need to deploy engineering units, the number would be less than 1,000. Their presence should not disturb the peace process or disturb the confidence-building," he said.

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