SKOPJE, Macedonia — A Western envoy in Macedonia raised doubts Wednesday about a government-declared amnesty for ethnic Albanian rebels, saying it was not in line with a Western-brokered peace accord.
Macedonia’s president, Boris Trajkovski, and his cabinet on Tuesday pardoned all ethnic Albanian rebels who battled government troops earlier this year but later surrendered their weapons to NATO.
But Trajkovski said the amnesty did not apply to those who might have committed war crimes during the six months of clashes.
The Western envoy, speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that the declaration’s wording showed “considerable difference” from that agreed on under the Western-brokered deal.
“An acceptable amnesty is critical to the peace process,” the envoy said. “And the one we saw yesterday is subject to broad legal interpretation.”
Trajkovski stressed that the amnesty will also not apply to those who committed criminal acts during fighting in five specific villages.
This phrase – “criminal acts” in five villages – is particularly misleading, because it could be broadly interpreted, the envoy said.
The comments came after other Western diplomats here initially welcomed the declaration as part of the fragile peace process meant to upgrade minority rights of the ethnic Albanians who make up a third of Macedonia’s population of 2 million.
The amnesty – endorsed by most members of Macedonia’s multiethnic government – was the first sign of progress in weeks toward implementing the peace deal to end six months of fighting.
Ethnic Albanian officials have also objected to the declaration, demanding stronger, legislative guarantees that the recently disarmed militants would not be prosecuted.
Justice Minister Idzet Memeti, an ethnic Albanian, said that only a special law passed in parliament could guarantee the former rebels freedom from prosecution.
In persisting tensions, an explosion early Wednesday damaged a Macedonian-owned cafe in Prilep, 50 miles southwest of capital Skopje, injuring no one.
The new, German-led NATO force numbering 1,000 troops in Macedonia saw action Wednesday when its de-mining team destroyed an arms cache in the village of Otlja, 10 miles northeast of Skopje.
About 2 1/2 tons of ammunition, explosives and anti-tank mines were destroyed, said Col. Peer Schwan, chief of the mission code-named Amber Fox.
The Macedonian parliament has still not passed 15 crucial constitutional amendments to upgrade ethnic Albanian rights – a key part of the accord. Ethnic Albanian deputies accuse Macedonian lawmakers of attempting to undermine the deal’s intention to put ethnic groups on an equal footing.