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Macedonia: Mediators Try To Finalize Peace Agreement

Ohrid, Macedonia; 8 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western mediators continue talks today with Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders from Macedonia's coalition government in a bid to get them to finalize a peace agreement. European Union envoy Francois Leotard said yesterday a deal "could be reached in a few days." The talks are taking place in the southern Macedonian resort town of Ohrid.

He said the political leaders are "almost at the end of the negotiations." Leotard said only two points remained unresolved, including a parliamentary procedure to enact constitutional changes demanded by the ethnic Albanians.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington major progress has been made in the talks, but that some work still remains to be done.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has given new assurances to Macedonia's leaders that ethnic Albanian rebels will be fully disarmed once a lasting peace settlement is concluded.

Also yesterday, five suspected ethnic Albanian fighters were killed in a police raid in the Macedonian capital Skopje. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said the suspected fighters were killed after police met what he called "heavy resistance."