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Macedonian Leaders Cite Progress in Cooperation With Albanian Population - 2003-11-25

Macedonia's reformist government leaders are in Washington for talks with U.S. officials. They say progress is being made in building cooperation between the country's Macedonian and Albanian populations.

Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski says his social democratic party and its Albanian coalition partner are steering Macedonia towards integration with the European Union and NATO.

In a meeting with reporters Monday Mr. Crvenkovksi said that while Macedonia is disappointed that it will not be joining NATO next year along with Bulgaria and Romania, he is confident that the door to membership remains open.

Macedonia is coordinating its drive for NATO membership with Albania and Croatia in a grouping known as the Adriatic Charter. Foreign Minister Ilenka Mitreva wants to include Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia in the charter.

At a meeting at Washington's Institute for Peace, Prime Minister Crvenkovski promised increased efforts to combat the corruption that is so pervasive in his country and region.

"The government adopted a strategy for the fight against corruption. This policy is led on two levels, systemic and operative," he said.

Macedonia's Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi, an Albanian, said the government needs to speed up the process of integrating Albanians into economic and government structures.

Mr. Xhaferi said that while the challenges are great he is confident that Macedonia will remain a unified country. He said the recently completed national census had been conducted professionally.

Prime Minister Crvenkovski, who took power 13 months ago, went further, saying that partition along ethnic lines as proposed by the opposition is a disastrous and unworkable policy. While in Washington Mr. Crvenkovski and his colleagues will meet with Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.