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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Papuan leaders have welcomed President Abdurrahman Wahid's positive response to the people's rising demand for independence.

Even though the President has offered no concrete steps other than to hold more dialogs to settle the problems in Irian Jaya, chairman of the Evangelical Christian Church (GKI) Rev. Herman Saud said on Sunday that the President's response was a very wise one.

Saud told The Jakarta Post that President Abdurrahman could not decide if Papua, the new name for Irian Jaya as stated by the President, should become an independent state or not.

When visiting the easternmost province at the end of last year, the President told Papuan officials and tribal leaders that only the People's Consultative Assembly had authority over that matter.

Saud also praised the President's guarantee for more discussions and freedom of expression. "Only by genuine dialogs can a peaceful and wise solution be found to the province's problems," Saud said.

The President's promises to promote justice, develop human resources and enhance human rights in Papua were also worthy of praise, he said. "I call on all parties to accept the President's good response, despite the fact that it does not satisfy everyone."

Don A. Flassy, the secretary of the Irian Jaya regional development planning board (Bappeda), shared his opinion, saying the President had hinted at a good response to the people's aspirations.

The central government should then communicate the President's gesture to the (Irianese) people, so that they could perceive what the President really wanted, he added.

"The people must be involved in dialogs with the government. In this way they can grasp and understand the government's good will very clearly," Flassy said.

A student at the state University of Cendrawasih, Diaz Gwijangge, said security approaches would not settle the problems in Papua. "Only by dialogs, such as those offered and emphasized by the President, can the problems be settled without bloodshed," Diaz said.

In his year-end visit the President also announced that Papua was the new name for Irian Jaya. Governor Freddy Numbery said, however, that further discussion was needed over the new name.

"All parties should sit together and discuss whether the province will be called Papua province or West Papua province. Our neighbors also have the word Papua in their country (Papua New Guinea)," Freddy said.

"Demands for independence and a change in the province's name must be discussed first," he reiterated.

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