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Dutch PM supports Indonesia on Papua sovereignty

Written by: Staff
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JAKARTA, Apr 8 (Reuters) The Netherlands, the ruler of the western side of New Guinea island before the area was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, emphasised today its support for Jakarta's rule over the troubled region.

Some indigenous activists in that area, now Indonesia's West Irian Jaya and Papua provinces, have campaigned for independence since that decision and a low-level rebellion has also simmered there.

Last month, Australia gave 42 Papuan asylum seekers temporary protection visas after they sailed from their homeland in a traditional boat with a banner accusing Indonesia of genocide.

Jakarta denies such charges and believes Canberra's acceptance of the Papuans gave credence to their claims of ill-treatment and support to Papuan independence, although Australia said that was not its aim and it supports Indonesian rule.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told reporters in Jakarta his country also backs Indonesia's sovereignty in the troubled area.

''Indonesia would like that the Netherlands fully respect the territorial integrity of Indonesia,'' adding there could be no doubt on the matter.

''With the president, I talked about the (Papua) autonomy laws and the implementation of these laws,'' he said after meeting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

''I fully respect the responsibility of Indonesia ... to this issue,'' he told reporters in a news conference.

A 2001 law gives Papua more share of revenues from its rich mineral and natural resources and more freedom in running its own affairs, including having a special council for indigenous tribal leaders to address local grievances.

In the same news conference, Yudhoyono, who a few days ago warned foreigners to stay away from meddling in Indonesia's side of Papua and told Papuans that he would provide them better care, said the autonomy law was the solution for the remote area.

''We have allocated a lot of money based on the special autonomy status. I have to assure that (this) money can be used concretely for the promotion of the welfare of the people,'' said Indonesia's first directly elected president.

Lying at the eastern end of the huge archipelago, the nearly Iraq-sized western part of New Guinea island was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 under a UN-backed vote by community leaders after Jakarta took over the area from Dutch colonial rule in 1963.

Many rights group consider the UN vote process a sham.

Yudhoyono and Balkenende also discussed boosting trade between the Asian country and its former colonial ruler.

Balkenende's three-day visit in Indonesia included meetings with Muslim leaders and with students at an Islamic university.

REUTERS PR SP1340

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