Former Aceh rebels to get right to form local political parties

Former separatists in Aceh could form a political party and the Indonesian province would retain most of the revenue from its natural resources, under draft laws aimed at cementing a peace deal in the tsunami-ravaged region. The ex-rebels will also be permitted to run for governor, and the province's athletes will be allowed to compete under an Acehnese flag at international sporting events, say the draft laws, due for debate in Indonesia's parliament early next month.

The legislation would enshrine the central planks of a peace deal signed last year between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government to end three decades of conflict in the province that killed more than 15,000 people.

Aceh was the place hit hardest by the Indian Ocean tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. The peace deal, which was pushed forward by the tsunami, has so far exceeded expectations.

The rebels have disarmed, most police and military have withdrawn and violence has ended. But analysts have cautioned that nationalist lawmakers in Indonesia's parliament, many of whom opposed the deal and are worried it could lead to Aceh's eventual secession, could delay or scuttle the passing of the laws, a copy of which was seen by The Associated Press, reports the AP. I.L.

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