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Macedonia: Peace Deal Reportedly Near

Ohrid, Macedonia; 6 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders in Macedonia's coalition government continue negotiations today amid reports a deal may be near on a final peace settlement. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said yesterday that an agreement had been reached on the composition of local police forces throughout the country.

The issue had been a major obstacle in negotiations. Solana said late yesterday that only a few technicalities remain to conclude a final peace settlement. He said a deal could be finalized as early as today.

Solana did not give details of the agreement on the police forces but reports quote Western officials saying the number of ethnic Albanians in the police force will grow. The Macedonian government, however, will reportedly retain central control over the police.

Ethnic Albanians were seeking a greater representation on local police forces, especially in areas where they have a majority of the population.

The talks have been taking place in the southern Macedonian resort town of Ohrid.