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EU's Javier Solana Expected at Macedonian Peace Negotiations - 2001-08-04


Macedonian peace talks inched forward Saturday as political leaders haggled over reforms to the Balkan country's police. The European Union's foreign policy chief will arrive Sunday to take part in the negotiations in Ohrid, Macedonia.

International mediators on Saturday presented Macedonia's political leaders with a new proposal to overhaul the ethnic make-up and political control of the country's police.

The reforms are an important demand of ethnic Albanian insurgents known as the National Liberation Army. The rebels say that Albanians are routinely discriminated against by the overwhelmingly ethnic-Macedonian police force.

Political leaders from the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian parties in the negotiations said that Saturday's talks were productive, although they said several issues remain unsettled.

The European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is scheduled to join the talks Sunday at President Boris Trajkovski's lakeside villa in Ohrid for what were called "an intensive series of meetings" with political leaders.

However, no agreement signing ceremony would take place Sunday, according to Radmila Sekerinska, deputy leader of the Macedonian Social Democratic Union. She said even if a deal can be quickly struck on police reforms, talks would have to continue Monday on other remaining issues.

On the police issue, the Albanian parties are calling for the ethnic composition of the police to reflect that of the local population in each municipality. However, while the Macedonians accept the principle of ethnic proportionality, they insist it should only be done on a nationwide basis.

Complex formulas were also under discussion for the selection of local police chiefs, which is seen as key to how much power the central government will retain over law enforcement.

One issue not discussed was whether after a peace settlement, demobilized guerrilla fighters could join the new police force.

The NLA has said it wants its soldiers to be given priority when about 3,000 Albanians are hired as police officers over the next year.

Ms. Sekerinska said that the issue would not come up at the talks, but would have to wait until after a presidential amnesty expected after the signing of a peace deal.

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