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Macedonia Peace Accord Signed - 2001-08-13

Macedonia's political leaders Monday signed a deal intended to end six months of ethnic fighting. The final approval of the accord comes after 11 days of negotiations with international mediators that concluded last week.

Leaders of Macedonia's four largest political parties have signed a compromise package of reforms to grant greater rights to the country's ethnic-Albanian minority.

The signing, which took place at the official residence of President Boris Trajkovski, came after an hour and a half wait described as a "technical delay" by an official of one of the parties.

The international mediators who brokered the deal, EU representative Francois Leotard and U.S. envoy James Pardew, were on hand to witness the signing, as were NATO Secretary General George Robertson and the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

The signing comes after five days of heavy fighting that ended early Monday morning.

Some diplomats and Macedonian leaders are wary that a hard-line faction of the ethnic-Albanian insurgents may continue fighting despite the deal. Immediately after the accord was initialed last Wednesday, guerrillas ambushed a convoy of Macedonian soldiers, killing 10.

The deal is also unpopular with many Macedonians who believe the country was forced by violence to give in to ethnic-Albanian demands. Demonstrations by Macedonian hard-liners are set to begin late Monday in front of parliament.