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Rebels Begin Disarming in Indonesia

February 9, 2003

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) _ Rebels in Indonesia’s Aceh province said Sunday that they have begun disarming, raising hopes that a peace deal to end the 27-year separatist war will stick.

The rebels have begun placing their weapons at designated storage areas, which will be periodically inspected by peace monitors, rebel spokesman Tengku Sofyan said.

According to the terms of the deal, Indonesian troops will move to defensive positions and stop hunting down rebel guerrillas.

``Both the rebels and the Indonesians have expressed strong willingness to remain on schedule with the terms of the agreement,″ said Steve Daly, a spokesman for the Geneva-based Henry Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, which brokered the deal.

Daly said the Indonesian government on Sunday also handed in a ``comprehensive plan″ on how its anti-guerrilla forces in Aceh would become ordinary police officers.

The demilitarization phase of the peace process is expected to last five months. Both sides say they are willing to hold peace talks if demilitarization is successful.

The Free Aceh Movement signed a peace agreement with the Indonesian government on Dec. 9. Rebels said they would start a political campaign _ instead of an armed rebellion _ for an independent state in the resource-rich region, located about 1,100 miles northwest of the capital, Jakarta. The insurgency has left more than 12,000 people dead since 1976.

Daly said both sides still need to work out details of the disarmament in negotiations starting Monday.

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