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Macedonia Parliament Resumes Peace Debate - 2001-09-03


Macedonia's parliament resumed debate on a peace plan Monday, two days after hardliners blocked the process. An initial vote by lawmakers is expected Tuesday that could clear the way for NATO troops to continue their weapons collection mission. After two days of uncertainty in Macedonia's faltering peace process, parliament has again taken up consideration of an internationally brokered peace agreement.

The move comes after the speaker of parliament, Stojan Andov backed down on a threat to block debate on the accord.

He said he was holding out for guarantees that Macedonian refugees would be able to return to their homes within three weeks.

While President Boris Trajkovski stopped short of offering a guarantee, Mr. Andov says he now has assurances that the issue will be a top priority of the government.

The parliament speaker was also under intense pressure from U.S., European and NATO officials. They insisted that no new conditions could be attached to the Macedonian peace agreement, signed three weeks ago by political leaders.

Legislators are considering a package of constitutional amendments favoring minority ethnic Albanians, the centerpiece of the peace plan. The parliament is expected to vote on an important procedural measure by Tuesday evening.

If the measure passes, it would clear the way for the resumption of NATO's weapons collection mission in Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanian rebels say they will continue to hand over their weapons to NATO troops only if parliament goes ahead with ratification of the peace agreement.