FORMER U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday praised Indonesia's efforts to rebuild tsunami-hit Aceh but said complete recovery also required an end to 30 years of civil conflict in the province. l Clinton, the U.N.*s envoy for tsunami relief, was speaking to reporters at the end of a one-day visit to Aceh on Sumatra's northern tip. It was his last stop in a tour of disaster-hit areas that took him to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India.
The Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami left some 160'000 people dead or missing in Aceh, and destroyed the homes of another half a million.
The government's recovery plan, which entails spending nearly $5 billion over several years, had several admirable elements, Clinton said, like strong anti-corruption provisions and an emphasis on consulting with local people.
l However, he also said that in conversations with Acehnese ranging from business people to community groups to residents of a camp for those whose homes were destroyed, he was told repeatedly: we'll never really be able to build the future we want until the civil conflict is over. Free Aceh Movement rebels have been fighting the government for control of the gas-rich province for 30 years. Some 12'000 people have died in the conflict, most of them civilians.
Clinton said he was encouraged by negotiations between the two sides held in Helsinki since the tsunami. The latest round is due to end today.
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