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Debate Goes On in Macedonia Parliament

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From Associated Press

Parliament wrestled with a crucial vote on Macedonia’s peace process Tuesday, with many lawmakers criticizing the pact but conceding that intense international pressure left little room for defiance.

But as the debate dragged on, a series of legislators came down clearly against the accord. The assembly was scheduled to reconvene today.

Despite the opposition, the peace plan is expected to get parliament’s endorsement, clearing the way for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to resume collecting rebel weapons. The move would also push parliament to the next--and much more difficult--phase of debating specific constitutional changes.

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Under the pact, forged with U.S. and European mediators, ethnic Albanians, who make up at least a quarter of Macedonia’s 2 million people, would receive greater political and language rights.

Many lawmakers echo the cries of ethnic Macedonian street protesters who say the accord rewards violence by promising political change as a trade-off for the end of fighting by ethnic Albanian rebels, yet fails to completely cripple the guerrilla National Liberation Army.

“The Macedonian nation is bleeding,” said lawmaker Ilja Prangovski. “We have been humiliated. We have lost. We are victims of aggression.”

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