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Foreign monitors to stay in Aceh until September

Agence France Presse - May 12, 2006

Banda Aceh – The European Union has agreed to extend the mandate of a peace monitoring mission in Indonesia's Aceh for three months until September, the mission said Friday.

Indonesia had requested an extension for the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), composed of personnel from the EU and five regional states, to enable it to oversee local elections in August.

The AMM which was due to leave Aceh on June 15 will now depart "no later than 15 September," it said in a statement.

"The parties to the Helsinki MoU (memorandum of understanding) are aware that this extension must be the last one," it said, referring to the deal thrashed out between rebel separatists and Jakarta signed in Finland last year. "Consequently, it is now incumbent upon the government and the parliament of Indonesia to ensure that the Law on the Governing of Aceh is enacted as soon as possible," it said.

Parliament is currently debating the law, which will provide the province with wide-ranging autonomy and pave the way for elections in line with the peace deal. The government has already missed a tentative deadline of March 31 for passing the law, but officials have said they hoped it would pass this month.

Under the peace pact, prompted by the devastating 2004 tsunami which killed 168,000 people in Aceh, the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) agreed to drop its demand for independence in return for partial self rule, ending three decades of conflict.

Nearly 200 monitors were initially stationed in Aceh after the pact was signed last August, but about 100 left in March when the mission was scaled back.