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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 23:06 GMT
Macedonia passes rebel amnesty
Arms handed in by rebels
Crimes like armed treason are pardoned
The Macedonian parliament has passed a long-awaited amnesty law for former ethnic Albanian rebels.

The amnesty, a key requirement under the peace plan which ended fighting between Macedonian forces and the rebels last year, is designed to rebuild trust between the former enemies.


I see no further reason for armed conflicts in Macedonia

Former rebel spokesman Hajrulla Misini
The 120-seat assembly passed the law by 64 to12.

"We decided to give peace a chance," Cedomir Kraljevski of the main Macedonian party VMRO-DPMNE, said after the vote.

Hajrulla Misini, a former spokesman for the largest ethnic Albanian rebel group, the National Liberation Army, said the passing of the law "is the biggest step towards reaching a peace settlement in Macedonia".

"I see no further reason for armed conflicts in Macedonia," Mr Misini, who is better known as commander Shpati, told the French news agency AFP.

Still tense

The country's four main political parties - two of which are Macedonian and two ethnic Albanian - agreed last month on a text for the bill, which the government approved before passing to parliament for the vote.

The amnesty sets out to pardon "all those linked with the crisis", when seven months of fighting between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas threatened to spiral out of control.

It will apply to all guerrillas who handed in their arms under a Nato-supervised weapons collection last year.

Anyone who took part in the fighting cannot be arrested or put on trial for acts of rebellion or armed violence.

However, anybody suspected of committing war crimes will still face prosecution under the jurisdiction of the UN tribunal in The Hague.

Despite the vote, Western diplomats say the situation in the country remains tense.


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07 Feb 02 | Europe
Nato set to stay in Macedonia
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