MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Veracruz has become the first state to ratify a government-sponsored Indian rights bill opposed by many of Mexico's Indians.

The bill was approved by Veracruz's legislature on Thursday, despite protests from Indian groups that it had been watered down by the Senate, which made revisions before both houses of Congress passed it last month.

Because it alters Mexico's constitution, the initiative must be approved by a majority of the country's 31 state legislatures.

Passage of a bill granting Mexico's Indians broad autonomy was one of the three conditions set by Zapatista rebels for renewing peace talks with the government. The rebels staged an uprising in 1994 in southern Chiapas state.

The Zapatistas want greater regional autonomy for Indian areas, as well as traditional government and law based on councils of elders or village assemblies.

The Senate's revisions weakened the regional autonomy proposed in the original bill and made laws based on Indian customs subject to approval by state legislatures.

In response, the Zapatistas broke off all contacts with the government and called on Indian groups to march against the bill.