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Macedonia: Parliament Amends Constitution

Skopje, 16 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Macedonian parliament early today voted to amend the national constitution to give the country's ethnic Albanian minority more rights. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski gave assurances later in the day that an amnesty for former ethnic Albanian rebels will be implemented, in a letter to international officials.

The ratification seals a Western-brokered peace accord aimed at ending the armed rebellion by ethnic Albanian militants that erupted in Macedonia early this year.

Lawmakers gave separate approval to each of 15 constitutional amendments, voting them in by two-thirds majorities, then voted to proclaim the changes as law in a new constitution. The final vote was 94-13, with two abstentions.

The changes expand the official use of the Albanian language, and also provide for ethnic Albanians to have a greater role in government and law enforcement to reflect their one-third share of Macedonia's population.

The preamble to the constitution was changed to cite ethnic Albanians and other minorities as peoples alongside the Macedonian majority.

Brokered by European Union and United States diplomats, the peace accord was signed 13 August, but parliamentary approval was repeatedly stalled due to political disputes. Ethnic Albanian rebels earlier turned over some 4,000 weapons to NATO and announced they were disbanding to support the peace deal.