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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK
Macedonia welcomes minority rights plan
Macedonian army tank fires on ethnic Albanian positions
Fighting lasted for seven months last year
Political leaders in Macedonia have welcomed the agreement on the final set of reforms in the country's peace process.

President Boris Trajkovski said conditions were now right for fair and democratic elections to be held in September.

The proposals would give ethnic Albanians and other minorities the right to use their own languages in state institutions, and increase the numbers of ethnic minorities in the civil service.


It will take quite a long time, of course, but day by day the trust is coming back

European Union's special envoy in Macedonia, Alain Le Roy
They were agreed in two and a half days of intense talks between ethnic Albanian and Macedonian leaders chaired by American and European Union officials, but they still need to be approved by the government and then parliament.

Fighting between ethnic Albanian gunmen and security forces lasted for seven months last year, prompting fears of a fifth Balkans war.

The package are part of a continuing peace process designed to stop fighting between ethnic Albanian gunmen and the Macedonian security forces from flaring up again.

The clashes, that lasted seven months, ended last August.

The laws will give ethnic Albanians the right to use their language in the courts and parliament as well as having identity papers issued in Albanian.

Numbers of ethnic minorities in state jobs will also be increased.

Tension 'lower'

The EU's special envoy in Macedonia, Alain Le Roy, who helped broker the deal, said it reflected how much Macedonia has changed in the last nine months.

"The situation today is very different from what I found when I arrived in October, November," he said.

"You can see many people are back to normal life and the tension is lower, of course, the trust is not there."

"It will take quite a long time, of course, but day by day the trust is coming back."

The BBC correspondent in Skopje, Nicholas Woods, says the Macedonian Government and parliament are both expected to give their backing to the new legislation this coming week.

Apart from a complex law on local government finance, reforms set out in last year's so-called Ohrid peace accords are now complete.


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