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CHRONOLOGY - Main events in history of Indonesia's Aceh

JAKARTA, May 17, 2003 (Reuters) - Indonesian government officials and representatives of the Free Aceh separatist rebel group are due to meet in Japan on Saturday in a bid to salvage a peace deal and avert an Indonesian military assault.

Following are main events in the history of the province, 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Jakarta on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

About the 12th century AD - Islam is believed to have first entered the Indonesian archipelago through Aceh.

1871 - Aceh is occupied by the Dutch, one of the last parts of Indonesia to come under Dutch colonial rule.

1873 - The Dutch issue a declaration of war and invade Aceh. There follows intermittent conflict until 1942.

1945 - Indonesia declares independence.

1953 - Aceh declares itself an independent Islamic state, four years of conflict with Indonesian government follow.

1959 - Government gives Aceh the status of "special territory," confering autonomy in religious, educational and cultural matters.

I976 - Free Aceh separatist group is founded and conflict flares again.

1989 - Indonesian security forces launch a tough counter-insurgency campaign. Rights groups say thousands of civilians are killed over subsequent years.

December 2002 - A peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement and the government initially reduces violence, but encounters increasing problems.

 

FACTBOX-Indonesia's troubled Aceh has a history of resistance

JAKARTA, May 17, 2003 (Reuters) - Indonesian government officials and representatives from the Free Aceh Movement are due to meet in Japan on Saturday in a bid to salvage a landmark peace agreement and avert an Indonesian military assault.

Following are key facts about the province, 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Jakarta on Sumatra's northern tip.

- PEOPLE

Aceh has a population of four million, less than two percent of Indonesia's total of 210 million. The overwhelming majority are Muslim.

- HISTORY

Aceh was one of the first parts of Indonesia to adopt Islam and one of the last to come under Dutch colonial rule with occupation in 1871 followed by a 35-year war before the last sultan surrendered. Resistance continued until World War Two.

Efforts by the new postwar country of Indonesia to keep Aceh ran into problems virtually from the start, with Aceh declaring itself an independent Islamic state in 1953.

During a conflict between 1953 and 1957, the Indonesian military under President Sukarno was able to suppress the Islamic state, finally bringing the two parties to negotiations, which established relative peace in Aceh in the early 1960s.

However, issues such as Aceh's share of revenue from its natural resources and whether it could officially practice Islamic sharia law still simmered, and in 1976 the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was founded and conflict flared again.

A December 2002 agreement initially reduced the level of violence, but has encountered increasing problems.

- ECONOMY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Aceh is one of the major oil and gas contributors for Indonesia's annual production of more than 400 million barrels of crude oil and about three trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) output from Aceh is worth up to $2 billion a year.

U.S. energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp produces 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the Arun LNG plant in the province out of total Indonesian gas production of 8.32 billion cubic feet.

However, in 2000, the Indonesian bureau of statistics showed that Aceh had only about 2.45 percent of Indonesian gross domestic product, while Jakarta enjoyed a figure some eight times greater, although the capital's population was less than three times larger.