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Polls Close in Macedonian General Elections


Polls have closed in Macedonia following parliamentary elections considered vital for the country's aspirations for membership in the European Union and NATO.

State election commission officials reported only a few minor incidents and promised to announce initial figures by early Thursday.

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski expressed hope his country will earn positive remarks from Brussels, which will enable Macedonia to continue on its path toward NATO and EU membership.

Pre-election opinion surveys had indicated a tight race between the Social Democrats of Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski and the main nationalist opposition party, the VMRO-DPMNE.

The campaign leading up to Wednesday's elections has been marked by shootings and grenade attacks between supporters of rival ethnic-Albanian parties in the western region of Tetovo.

The European Union, NATO and the United States have warned against election violence.

Tensions are still simmering five years after agreements ended a seven-month campaign by ethnic-Albanian gunmen for more civil and political rights in the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.