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Macedonia offered $515m to rebuild

NATO peacekeepers monitor the fragile peace
About 1,000 NATO peacekeepers monitor the fragile peace  

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Macedonia has been promised $515 million in aid from international donors to rebuild the country.

The World Bank and European Commission gathered representatives from 38 countries and 19 organisations together in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss assisting the former Yugoslav republic.

A fragile peace, brokered in August 2001, exists in Macedonia as it recovers from more than six months of fighting last year between government forces and and ethnic Albanian leaders.

"Donor funding of about $274 million was pledged at the meeting for macroeconomic assistance for support of reconstruction and implementation of the framework agreement," the EC and the World Bank said.

"In addition, donors indicated another $241 million of donor assistance for general economic development purposes in 2002," they said.

Macedonia: Hurdles to peace 

The aid was well above expectations of $220 million.

An aid conference planned for October 2001 had been cancelled because of concerns that the Macedonian government was not fulfilling its part in the country's peace agreement.

Most of the funds will be used for helping the Macedonian government balance its budget this year, with the remainder allocated for rebuilding homes, schools, power lines and other facilities.

More than $22 million would also cover costs of implementing the peace deal, including the removal of land mines, decentralising government, improving teaching and promoting the use of the Albanian language.

The peace plan was brokered in August 2001 as an end to six months of fighting between rebel Albanians and Macedonian government troops. It is monitored by about 1,000 NATO troops.

In a key move that gained support from Western powers, Macedonia's parliament approved an amnesty for former ethnic Albanian rebels last week.

The move was welcomed by NATO and the European Union as a key step towards establishing peace in the Balkan state.

The amnesty law covers crimes including high treason, mutiny, armed rebellion and conspiracy against the state.

Macedonian officials told The Associated Press on Monday they had begun the release of about 300 former rebels under the amnesty agreement.

Ethnic Albanian rebel sources confirmed that the release had started, beginning with 12 ex-militants rebels who were freed from the Idrizovo prison in Skopje.

In a further sign of easing tensions, police on Monday abolished a dusk-to-dawn curfew introduced in Tetovo in March 2001 when clashes between rebels and government security forces started in Macedonia's second-largest city.

"In view of the stabilisation of the situation in Tetovo, the restrictive measure will be abolished immediately," a statement from Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said.


• Amnesty law brings peace hope
March 8, 2002
• Macedonia passes peace deal law
January 25, 2002
• Macedonia rebels disown peace deal
January 11, 2002
• Macedonia debates poll delay
November 26, 2001

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