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Macedonia's Largest Opposition Party Appoints New Leader

FILE - Nikola Gruevski, former prime minister of Macedonia, greets supporters during a pre-election rally in Veles, Oct. 12, 2017. Gruevski, 47, was formally replaced as VMRO-DPMNE party leader on Dec. 23, 2017.

Macedonia's main opposition party, the rightist VMRO-DPMNE, formally replaced its leader, Nikola Gruevski, on Saturday and appointed Hristijan Mickoski, a technocrat, as his successor.

Gruevski, 47, resigned this month following an election defeat last year and unrest that rocked the small Balkan country in April.

In his speech to the party's convention on Saturday, Gruevski said that a key reason for VMRO-DPMNE's fall from power was his refusal to yield to what he described as international and domestic pressure to accept a compromise in a dispute with Greece.

Macedonia, which won independence in 1991 from then-federal Yugoslavia, has made little progress toward European Union and NATO membership because of a long-running dispute with Greece, which claims Macedonia's name represents a territorial claim to its province with the same name.

"We wanted a fair compromise and a name solution, but not under dictate," Gruevski said.

Gruevski's successor, Mickoski, 41, a relative novice in politics, became VMRO-DPMNE secretary-general earlier this year.

He served in Gruevski's government as the general manager of ELEM, Macedonia's state-owned power plants managing company.