Islamic Group Snubs Peace Deal in Moluccas

Muslim-Christian Pact Says Unauthorized Units Must Disarm

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ROME, FEB. 13, 2002 ( Seventy Muslim and Protestant Christian representatives from the Molucca Islands have signed a pact committing themselves to abandon violence, but an Islamic paramilitary group says it won´t abide by the accord.

«We have no business with the Malino agreement because our mission in the Moluccas focuses on humanitarian work and every citizen of this country has the right to stay anywhere he wants,» Laskar Jihad spokesman Ayip Syarifuddin told Agence France-Presse today.

Confrontations broke out in the Indonesian islands in 1999 following a personal dispute between a Christian and a Muslim. Clashes have caused 10,000 deaths so far (15,000, according to the Vatican agency Fides), produced 500,000 refugees, and devastated the archipelago´s economy, particularly tourism.

Negotiations between the two rival communities of the islands opened Monday in Malino, in the province of Sulawesi South, in the presence of government negotiators, under the protection of 1,700 security agents. The pact was signed Tuesday.

The meetings were presided over by Social Welfare Minister Yusuf Kalla and retired General Susilo Bambang, Minister of Security and Political Affairs. The government officials had a prior, separate meeting with the two delegations.

It is not clear what will happen to the 3,000 Laskar Jihad troops, the paramilitary militia that disembarked on the former Spice Islands in mid-2000 to fight the Christians.

Christians requested that these forces abandon the archipelago. For their part, Muslims called for the dismantling of the Christian militia known as the Front for the Sovereignty of the Moluccas.

The peace deal calls for an independent inquiry into the activities of Laskar Jihad and two Christian separatist groups — the Front for the Sovereignty of the Moluccas and the South Moluccas Republic movement — and another Christian group called Laskar Kristus.

The pact states that all unauthorized armed groups should surrender their weapons or be disarmed. «For those outside parties that are sowing unrest in the Moluccas, they are obligated to leave the Moluccas,» the pact states.

Father Cornelis Bohm, of the Crisis Center of the Ambon Diocese, said Christians would demand «strong and decisive actions» to expel Laskar Jihad from the Moluccas.

«Their image as killers and provocateurs of war is so deeply rooted here that no Christian in the Moluccas will ever believe their claim (to be) a humanitarian nongovernment organization,» Father Bohm said.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri welcomed the peace deal, the second negotiated by her Cabinet ministers in two months. A December agreement ended Muslim-Christian fighting in the Poso region of central Sulawesi.

Welfare Minister Yusuf Kalla said Jakarta would soon send judges as well as more troops and police to the Moluccas.

Asked about Laskar Jihad´s stance, Kalla said: «I have approached them,» but did not elaborate.

More than 80% of Indonesia´s 214 million people are Muslims but in some eastern regions Christians constitute about half the population.

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