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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 14:47 GMT
Macedonia pardons first Albanian rebels
ethnic Albanian fighter
Eleven fighters are to be released from jail
The first rebel ethnic Albanian fighters have been granted amnesties by Macedonia.

Eleven jailed fighters are expected to leave prison later on Wednesday after being pardoned by President Boris Trajkovski.

The amnesty is part of a western-backed peace plan, thrashed out to end an insurgency by ethnic Albanian guerrillas which began earlier this year.

Boris Trajkovski
President Trajkovski is expected to announce more amnesties
The pardons are to cover all fighters who are not indictable by the UN war crimes tribunal and who gave up their arms voluntarily under a Nato-led weapons collection scheme.

Another 77 proposals for amnesty are still under consideration and more are expected to be granted in the next few days.

"These are only the first pardons - the process of amnesty continues," said Mr Trajkovski's spokeswoman, Dimka Ilkova Boskovic.

The peace process has been bogged down since the completion of the arms collection and there were fears that the Macedonians might not honour their pledge to grant the amnesties.

Western diplomats have said that the enactment of the amnesties would be an important indication of goodwill on the part of the Macedonian Government.

The UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has also begun investigations of war crimes allegations levelled against both sides in the conflict.

The peace process took a leap forward last month when the Macedonian parliament voted to make a raft of changes to the country's constitution aimed at improving the status and representation of the Albanian population.


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