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JAKARTA, Indonesia (January 13, 2002 – Reuters/Kabar-Irian)---Indonesian police said their probe into the murder of a pro-independence leader in Papua province has stalled, a development likely to sour government attempts to calm separatist passions.

Papua police chief Made Mangku Pastika, quoted by the official Antara news agency on Sunday, said police would continue the investigation into the November killing of the charismatic Theys Eluay but with less intensity.

"Our investigations into Theys’ case are no longer significant as we have reached a point where they cannot be developed any further," Pastika said.

Leading Papuans, concerned about local reaction should the probe appear to be a whitewash, had urged Jakarta to quickly solve the murder of Eluay, who chaired the pro-independence Papua Presidium Council and was found dead in his overturned car last November.

Council members and police were not immediately available for comment.

Pastika said an independent team being formed from church and other officials to probe the killing would hopefully be able to shed light on the affair, Antara reported. President Megawati Sukarnoputri has backed the formation of the team.

Police have not ruled out military involvement in the killing although the army as an institution has denied all accusations.

The presidium council advocates independence for the remote and resource rich province peacefully. A small band of separatist rebels have also been battling Indonesian rule for decades.

In a bid to stem separatist tension, Jakarta has handed the territory of two million people greater powers to manage its own affairs.

But Megawati has firmly ruled out independence for Papua, formerly called Irian Jaya. Its people for years have complained of human rights abuses by the army and Jakarta’s control over the province’s vast natural wealth.

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