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UN sees drop in Indonesia aid camps

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- UN officials said the number of tsunami relief camps in Indonesia's Aceh Province has dropped by about 75 percent in the past week, with most people moving in with relatives and a few returning to their villages along the battered west coast.

The "dramatic decrease" in the camps, from 385 to fewer than 100, was good news because relief settlements can make survivors too dependent on outside help, said Joel Boutroue, head of UN relief efforts in Aceh.

To help the delivery of aid to hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Dec. 26 tsunami, governments in Indonesia and Sri Lanka were trying to ease tensions with indigenous rebel movements that threatened to hold up supplies.

Indonesian officials agreed to meet with Aceh rebel leaders this week in Finland to negotiate a cease-fire in the province, where separatists have been fighting for an independent homeland for nearly 30 years, according to Finland's Crisis Management Initiative, headed by former president Martti Ahtisaari.

Yesterday, two powerful earthquakes sparked panic in India and Indonesia nearly a month after the quake triggered the deadly walls of water that killed more than 160,000 people, but there was little damage, no reported injuries -- and no tsunami. The two quakes, both magnitude 6.3, jangled nerves across the region.

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