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Macedonia Modifies Its Laws

Balkans: After weeks of stalling, parliament OKs reforms outlined in peace pact granting ethnic Albanians greater rights.

November 16, 2001|From Times Wire Reports

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Macedonia's parliament voted today to improve the civil rights of minority Albanians after a long delay that menaced a peace accord designed to defuse a guerrilla uprising.

The vote came days after the agreement almost unraveled when the interior minister sent special forces into the ethnic Albanian heartland, leading to fighting, arrests and retaliatory kidnappings.

Parliament adopted each of 15 constitutional amendments by a two-thirds majority. In a second session immediately afterward, the chamber voted overwhelmingly to ratify the amendments and proclaim them as law.

The reforms decentralize power and grant ethnic Albanians jobs in public service, especially the police, reflecting their numbers in the population. They also allow limited official use of the Albanian language and remove references in the preamble to the constitution suggesting that minorities are second-class citizens.

In another development, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, in charge of the police, said Thursday that he was resigning from the government's Crisis Management Committee.

The panel was formed to coordinate the reestablishment of government control over areas where ethnic Albanian rebels operated.

Boskovski has been a hard-line advocate of more robust action against Albanian militants.

Insurgents began fighting Macedonian government forces in February, then agreed to a cease-fire in August in exchange for more rights for ethnic Albanians, who make up at least one-quarter of the population.

Guerrillas handed in almost 4,000 weapons to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and disbanded in September to fulfill their side of the peace pact. But an outcry over "capitulation to terrorists" stalled parliament for six weeks.

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