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Macedonia Agrees to Clarify Rebel Amnesty

November 08, 2001|Reuters

SKOPJE, Macedonia — NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said Wednesday that Macedonia has promised to clarify a promised amnesty for disbanded guerrillas to show that only those indictable by a U.N. war crimes tribunal would face arrest.

If honored, the move would do much to sustain a troubled August peace agreement with rebel ethnic Albanians. Hard-line security services seeking vengeance rather than reconciliation with the rebels have blocked a broad amnesty, raising tensions.

An amnesty decree issued Oct. 8 was ambiguous on what constitutes a war crime, putting ex-insurgents who still have weapons on edge as police resumed limited patrols.

With parliament planning to vote Monday on civil rights reforms benefiting ethnic Albanians after six weeks of delay, Robertson came to town to tie up a critical loose end of the peace pact--the amnesty.

He emerged from six hours of talks with ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian leaders saying the government had pledged to exchange letters with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization assuring that any prosecutions would be left to or require approval by the tribunal.

Robertson, handling the issue because National Liberation Army rebels invested their trust in NATO to obtain an amnesty after they disbanded, said that while the fine print had to be finalized, at least one key point was agreed to on Wednesday.

There will be no more arrests without the tribunal's oversight, Robertson told reporters.

However, the status of 224 rebels jailed or sought on murky "terrorism" or arms-possession charges levied before the Aug. 13 peace settlement remained in doubt.

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