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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 14:20 GMT
Q&A: Macedonia peace process
q and a
BBC News Online explains the background to the Macedonia conflict and the ongoing peace process.

Where does the peace process stand now?

The Macedonian parliament has adopted a package of constitutional reforms which were part of the peace settlement brokered by the international community.

The reforms gave greater rights to the country's minority ethnic Albanians and ended weeks of political deadlock which threatened the accord.

Under the terms of the settlement, Albanian rebel fighters handed in nearly 4,000 weapons to Nato and formally disbanded. An amnesty was declared in October.

But in what is being seen as another setback, the country's main moderate party - the Social Democratic Alliance - announced that it would leave the governing coalition.

Their departure is likely to strengthen the position of Macedonian nationalists who have taken a hard-line attitude towards unrest by ethnic Albanians in the northwest of the country.

The situation has become increasingly tense again - with a series of armed attacks and the start of excavations at an alleged mass grave site resulting from fighting earlier in the year.

So is there a war crimes investigation?

The issue of war crimes has become another of the stumbling blocks in the Macedonian peace process.

Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for The Hague war crimes tribunal, has announced the investigation of at least two cases committed during the conflict.

Government forces and the rebel group, the NLA, are each accused of carrying out one massacre during the six months of fighting earlier this year.

A site outside Tetovo, thought by Macedonian authorities to contain the remains of civilians killed by ethnic-Albanian rebels, is now being excavated.

Many Macedonian politicians want more cases to be investigated, including the alleged site outside Tetovo.

Anybody accused of war crimes is exempt from a government amnesty for former members of the NLA.

How did the fighting in Macedonia start?

There were several sporadic incidents in February 2001 in and around the ethnic Albanian village of Tanusevci on the northern stretch of the Macedonian border with Kosovo.

Such incidents had happened before, often caused by the Macedonian police's attempts to clamp down on ethnic Albanian smugglers.

But an attempt by the Macedonian security forces on 26 February to take control of Tanusevci escalated into a lengthy exchange of fire.

The fighting spread, first to the mountainous outskirts of Tetovo, the main ethnic Albanian town in Macedonia, and in May to the region around Kumanovo in the north.

Clashes and unrest were also been seen in and around the capital, Skopje.

What is in the existing peace plan?

Politicians from both communities agreed on a peace formula in August 2001, after days of tense negotiations. European and US mediators were there to concentrate minds.

The deal includes increasing the proportion of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia's police force - from 5% to about 25%.

The status of the Albanian language was also boosted, so it can be used in official institutions in areas where ethnic Albanians account for at least 20% of the population - as well as in the national parliament.

The preamble to the constitution has also been changed to upgrade the status of the Albanians and the smaller ethnic communities.

Who are the rebels?

The rebels who fought in the northern part of Macedonia called themselves the National Liberation Army (NLA), a group which emerged only at the beginning of 2001.

They were demanding a new Macedonian constitution, better rights for Albanians, and international mediation in the dispute.

The rebels said they were mostly Macedonian-born Albanians. But their number included many who fought in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and the group used Kosovo as a supply base and safe area.

They insisted that they did not want to break up Macedonia.

Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the now-disbanded NLA, says he is satisfied with the peace deal. But a shadowy splinter-group, known as the Albanian National Army, has claimed responsibility for several violent acts since the peace agreement was reached.

There was also an older - established group operating on the Serbia-Kosovo border - the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB).

It harboured more wide-ranging goals, including the annexation by Kosovo of ethnic Albanian-inhabited areas of southern Serbia and possibly of western and northern Macedonia.

But the rebellion in the Presevo valley came to an end in May as part of a peace deal that provided for the reintegration of the region with the rest of Serbia and an amnesty for the ethnic Albanian fighters.

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08 Mar 01 | Europe
06 Mar 01 | Europe
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