Indonesia's vice president to discuss peace

Indonesia's vice president will discuss peace efforts Thursday with leaders of Aceh's former separatist movement who returned to the tsunami-devastated province recently after years of self-exile, officials said.

The former rebels will seek details from Vice President Jusuf Kalla about parliament's efforts to pass a law for Aceh that will set the stage for local elections, a key part of the peace agreement signed last August, said Sofyan Dawood, a spokesman for the Free Aceh Movement.

"We hope this meeting can help clear up questions about Aceh's future," Dawood told The Associated Press. "We have laid down our weapons and now want to see what the government has done to prepare ... for elections in Aceh."

Efforts to end a 29-year war that claimed 15,000 lives picked up pace after the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami crashed into Aceh's coastline, killing at least 130,000 people in the province and leaving a half million others homeless.

Since the accord's signing, the rebels have handed over all of their self-declared 840 weapons and the government has pulled more than half of its 50,000 troops from Aceh.

But, despite a March target date, the parliament has not yet passed a law that would allow former rebels to create a political party as well as grant the oil-and-gas rich province self government.

Kalla's spokesman confirmed that the vice president would meet with the former rebels at his residence later Thursday, reports the AP.

I.L.