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World: Macedonian peace deal could be adopted soon.



SKOPJE, Macedonia (October 27, 2001 7:07 p.m. EDT) - Macedonia's rival groups expressed hope Saturday that parliament could adopt a long-stalled peace deal for the troubled Balkan country in the coming week.

A top European Union official declared a breakthrough in the peace process Friday, announcing that Macedonian and ethnic Albanian leaders had resolved their differences over constitutional changes envisaged by the Aug. 13 peace accord.

The deal is meant to end an ethnic Albanian insurgency in exchange for broader minority rights. Ethnic Albanians comprise a third of Macedonia's 2 million people.

A top official for the hardline Macedonian VMRO party said on condition of anonymity that they are now willing to allow passage of the pact in the parliament.

And at least one Macedonian party, the Social Democratic Alliance, also suggested no more obstacles to the plan were apparent.

"We are very satisfied that the agreement has finally been reached," said Radmila Secerinska, the spokeswoman for the alliance. "It is a compromise, but we will vote in favor."

Ethnic Albanian political leaders, meanwhile, also seemed optimistic. Zahir Bekteshi, the spokesman for the Party for Democratic Prosperity, said, however, that some details on the proposal still need to be worked out.

Hardliners in Macedonia's parliament blocked the peace deal because of a dispute over the wording in an amendment to the constitution. In the preamble of the constitution, the hardliners demanded a clear reference to "Macedonian people" in the text.

In the compromise draft, Macedonia is defined as a country of "all citizens ... the Macedonian people, as well as citizens living within its borders, who are part of the Albanian people," and several other groups listed by name.

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