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2 PROVINCES HOLD KEY TO QUEBEC AMENDMENT

The fate of a constitutional amendment designed to prevent Quebec's secession from Canada rested Friday with Newfoundland and Manitoba, the only two provinces yet to approve it.

The amendment must be approved by the legislatures of all 10 Canadian provinces by midnight Saturday or it will expire.Debate on the amendment had not resumed in the Newfoundland Legislature because lawmakers were dealing with an emergency situation that arose over a series of strikes at hospitals in the provincial capital of St. John's.

In Manitoba, a Cree Indian member of the provincial legislature was expected to scuttle the amendment by denying lawmakers the opportunity to extend debate on it to Saturday. A motion to extend would require unanimous consent.

Quebec has threatened to separate if the amendment, which recognizes the French-speaking province as a distinct-speaking society and gives it powers to promote and protect its language and culture, is not approved before midnight Saturday.

The amendment, formally called the Meech Lake Accord, was negotiated by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and leaders of the 10 provinces three years ago because Quebec refused to sign the 1982 constitution on grounds it did not recognize the province's French-speaking population.