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Macedonia: President Says Elections To End Interethnic Strife

Skopje, 15 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski says that Sunday's parliamentary elections will end interethnic strife and put Macedonia on course for full European integration. Electoral officials in Skopje say voter turnout at the 2,300 voting stations topped 50 percent, making the ballot legal under Macedonian law.

Trajkovski said the elections proceeded normally despite sporadic violence in the days leading up to the elections which saw nine people killed in interethnic violence. Trajkovski said the elections will help Macedonia find its place in the European family.

The elections are the first since fighting broke out last year between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians, ending with a peace agreement in August 2001.

Official preliminary results are expected to be released on the evening of 16 Septermber.

Analysts say the main contest is between the ruling nationalist party of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and the moderate Social Democratic Union of former Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski.

Strong support also was expected amongst ethnic Albanian voters for Ali Ahmeti, a commander of ethnic Albanian fighters during last year's uprising who has since become a political figure.

NATO peacekeepers were on standby following the violence during the campaign. But election officials reported only a few minor incidents on polling day.

In the northwestern village of Lesok near Tetovo, police say unknown gunmen injured a member of the local electoral commission when they stole a ballot box.