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Fears Of Indonesian Crackdown In Irian Jaya

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CHURCH leaders and human rights activists in Indonesia's eastern province of Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, have reported a build-up of troops, which they fear will be used to crackdown on separatist supporters.

The warning comes as police back away from an order to have all separatist flags pulled down by today.

Police say their action was made in an attempt to avoid bloodshed.

Independence leaders had promised to mobilise tens of thousands of supporters to prevent Morning Star flags from being lowered from town squares and prominent buildings.

The Morning Star flag is a potent symbol of Papuan identity and struggle for self-rule.

Almost two-weeks ago, police attempts to lower one of the flags resulted in a rampage by villagers and the killing of 40 people, mainly Indonesian settlers.

In an effort to re-open dialogue, police have promised Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid would meet independence leaders face-to-face and hear their demands for a greater share of Papua's rich resources and an end to human rights abuses.

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