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DATE=11/17/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=INDONESIA / ACEH (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-256257 BYLINE=PATRICIA NUNAN DATELINE=JAKARTA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: One day after Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid announced he thought a referendum could be held on the future status of the northern province of Aceh, other government officials are questioning his statement. As Patricia Nunan reports from Jakarta, there is growing concern that allowing a vote on independence to take place would mean the break-up of Indonesia. TEXT: The spokesman for the Indonesian Armed Forces says President Abdurrahman Wahid was merely stating a "personal opinion" when he said a referendum could be held in Aceh in seven months. Major-General Sudrajat is quoted in Jakarta's Republika newspaper as saying that the president should consult with Indonesia's National Assembly before deciding on whether a ballot can be held. Speaking to reporters Tuesday during a state visit to Japan, Mr. Wahid said that a referendum could be held in Aceh in seven months. But the president declined to elaborate on what would take place during that time- frame, and he did not explain what type of referendum he had in mind. The provincial governor of Aceh said Wednesday that the president told him that voters would not cast ballots on the question of full independence from Indonesia if a referendum were held. Instead, Governor Syamsuddin Mahmud says any possible ballot would give voters the choice of accepting a special autonomy plan for Aceh, or maintaining the status quo. Demands for an independence vote have been fueled in Aceh since the Indonesian government allowed East Timor to break away last month, after a special referendum supervised by the United Nations. /// OPT /// Earlier this month some local parliamentarians from Aceh issued an ultimatum to the central government that if they did not announce that an independence ballot could be held, they would hold one themselves. The December 4th deadline has prompted some people to begin leaving the province, because of fears violence may break out. /// END OPT /// Aceh is one of a handful of Indonesian provinces where separatist movements are brewing. Demonstrations calling for independence have been held in Irian Jaya, Ambon and Sulawesi and Riau in recent months. Most separatists complain of exploitation by Jakarta, saying they do not receive enough of the revenue the central government derives from their natural resources. NEB/PN/FC/JO 17-Nov-1999 05:28 AM EDT (17-Nov-1999 1028 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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