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Macedonia's Parliament Postpones Peace Plan Vote - 2001-09-05


Macedonia's parliament unexpectedly postponed a vote on a peace plan Tuesday after a marathon debate. Without parliamentary approval for the plan, NATO's mission to disarm ethnic Albanian rebels in the country remains on hold.

After more than 10 hours of debate on a peace agreement, Macedonia's parliament called it quits without taking action.

Parliament speaker Stojan Andov said debate will resume Wednesday morning, with 19 deputies slated to speak. The debate began on Friday, but was held up for two days by Mr. Andov, in a failed bid to attach new conditions to the deal.

A two-thirds majority is needed to pass the initial vote on the peace accord, which centers on a package of constitutional changes granting increased rights to the country's ethnic Albanian minority.

Sveto Karadzovski of the ruling party said a vote for the peace agreement amounted to surrendering to ethnic Albanian rebels. He said, "Let us have no doubt, this peace agreement is a form of capitulation." Parliament member Ilja Prangovski agreed, saying, "We have been humiliated. We have lost. We are victims of aggression."

However, Radmila Sekerinska of the opposition Social Democratic Union said even though the accord offered no guarantee of peace, Macedonia stood to gain by ratifying it. She said the agreement is "a chance, a huge potential to build a legitimate democracy."

Rejection of the measure would throw the peace process into disarray. However, Western analysts are optimistic that many of those speaking out against the accord are only posturing before their constituents.

Some hardliners have suggested they will vote in favor of the agreement now, but will demand changes later before final enactment of the reforms.

Ethnic Albanian rebels say they will not continue to hand over their arms until lawmakers make progress toward ratifying the deal.

NATO's 5,000-strong mission to Macedonia has no mandate to force the rebels to turn in their guns. That has left the alliance's Operation Essential Harvest on hold for the last six days, waiting for steps forward in the political process.

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