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Macedonia: Issue Of Disarming Stalls Peace Talks

Ohrid, Macedonia: 7 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Peace talks between Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders in Macedonia's coalition government continue today, a day after a setback in the negotiations over calls for the ethnic Albanian rebels to disarm. Reports said the two sides had been close to reaching a final peace agreement before yesterday's session began.

But the VMRO, the political party of Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, demanded that ethnic Albanian fighters first disarm before parliament ratifies any peace deal.

A Western-drafted peace plan calls for NATO peacekeepers to help disarm ethnic Albanian fighters after parliament approves the accord.

Ethnic Albanian fighters say they will only disarm gradually after a framework accord is ratified by parliament. They also want a full amnesty, a condition that has not yet been addressed in the talks.

On Sunday, the two sides had agreed on the composition of local police forces throughout the country. That issue was widely viewed as a major stumbling block in the negotiations.

The talks are taking place in the southern resort town of Ohrid.