RPT-Australia risks Papua conflict role -- activists

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CANBERRA, March 27 (Reuters) - Australia risks being dragged into an "undeclared war" on separatists in Indonesia's restive Papua province by a new security pact with Jakarta, rights activists and opposition lawmakers said on Tuesday.

A treaty between the two neighbours, signed on the Indonesian island of Lombok in November, cast Canberra as a de facto Indonesian ally in the long-running conflict, a report by Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies said.

"Australia will provide training, funding and material aid to TNI (Indonesian military) forces who are currently engaged in what many West Papuans consider is genocide," the report said.

The treaty aims to smooth prickly ties between the two countries and underline Australian support for Jakarta's sovereignty over separatist-leaning provinces including mineral-rich Papua, Maluku and Aceh.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last year the pact would lead to stronger anti-terrorism cooperation and joint naval border patrols, as well as joint civilian nuclear research and Australian sales of uranium to Indonesia.

But rights groups said the pact, which clears the way for joint counter-terrorism training between special forces, would give Indonesia's Kopassus commandos new skills to be used against Papuan separatists.

Those fears were backed by senators from the minor Australian Greens and Australian Democrats parties, who said the government had caved in to Jakarta's interests in signing the treaty, which is still being considered by parliament in Canberra.

Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja said the treaty, which replaces a defence pact torn up by Jakarta in 1999 after Australia's military intervention in East Timor, should be "re-drafted, re-thought and re-written".

Paula Makabory, from the Indonesian rights group Elsham, said Canberra should insist on access to tightly controlled Papua for Australian lawmakers before ratifying the treaty.

The pact could also erode democratic rights by muzzling pro-independence groups in Australia, she said.

"We would be unable to openly criticise Indonesian military excesses without being branded separatists," Makabory said.

Indonesia has been angered by pro-Papuan independence groups based in Australia and demanded Canberra curtail their actions.

The treaty was agreed following militant bomb attacks in Bali in 2002 and 2005, as well as on Australia's Jakarta embassy in 2003, which together killed 92 Australians and scores of Indonesian and foreign bystanders.

Some members of the Indonesian military have been convicted of rights abuses in places such as Papua, although they have been relatively junior. High-ranking military officials have not been prosecuted.