Macedonians to resume discussion of peace plan

The Macedonian parliament will resume its
discussions Monday, 3 September, on a peace agreement between
Macedonians and ethnic Albanian rebels under Western pressure.
The parliament’s speaker Ms Stojan Andov suspended the debate
on Saturday, 1 September, demanding that refugees be first
allowed to return to their homes in the areas controlled by
ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

Members of the Macedonian parliament will discuss the
proposed deal to give more rights to the ethnic Albanian
minority. Many Macedonians oppose the deal though, and
nearly half of the MPs were absent from discussions in
protest or out of fear of the demonstrations.

Parliamentary leader Mr Andov demanded
guarantees that displaced Macedonian civilians who would
like to return to their homes in the occupied territories,
will not be harassed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas. He
decided to reopen the debate on Sunday when ethnic
Albanians ended a road-block preventing displaced
Macedonians from visiting their homes.

The Macedonian parliament also came
under strong pressure from Western officials who fear that
a delay in the ratification of the peace plan could shatter
a fragile truce between Macedonian government forces and
ethnic Albanian insurgents.

Ethnic Albanian guerrillas have pledged
to hand their weapons to a NATO peace force in exchange for
a peace plan that will give ethnic Albanians more jobs in
the Macedonian police force and greater use of the Albanian
language. The rebels are expected to hand in 3,300 weapons
to NATO, who has collected one third of this quota so far.
However, guerrilla commanders have signalled that they
would not hand in any more weapons until the parliament
adopts the proposed peace plan.


A peace deal was signed on 13 August by the Macedonian
government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas with the aim of
ending the conflict that started in February. The deal
gives official recognition to the Albanian language and
outlines plans for the police to reflect more accurately
the ethnic balance in the country. Ethnic Albanian
guerrillas agreed on 14 August to hand over their arms to
NATO forces in return for the promise of amnesty from
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.

NATO's 3,500-strong force started
collecting weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels on Monday,
27 August. The mission is scheduled to last 30 days.


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