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Report: Macedonian Opposition Leader Reverses, Will Attend Crisis Talks

Macedonia's chief opposition leader indicated late June 5 he would attend talks in Brussels next week to resolve a political crisis rocking the Balkan country, only hours after pulling out of the talks, Reuters reported.

Zoran Zaev earlier in the day said he would not attend because he questioned the impartiality of the European Union, which is mediating the talks aimed at sealing a deal for early elections to end a standoff over damaging wiretap disclosures against the government.

Zaev said at the time he pulled out that remarks made by the EU's chief mediator, enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, contained "biased elements."

He singled out for criticism Hahn's statement that a report by European election monitors on Macedonia's last parliamentary poll in 2014 was "in general a positive report." Zaev said that statement was "inappropriate" ahead of the June 10 crisis meeting.

The opposition maintains that the parliamentary election was rigged, and has been boycotting parliament ever since.

Because of the opposition's allegations, one of the main outstanding issues to be resolved in the Brussels talks is how an early election expected by April 2016 will be organized.

After Zaev aired his criticism, the European Commission issued a statement June 5 saying Hahn and Zaev had spoken by phone and "clarified one issue."

The commission said Hahn was only repeating the observations of election monitors in his earlier statement, but the monitors also had raised "a number of serious concerns" about the parliamentary vote.

Apparently after talking with Hahn, Zaev's Social Democrat party issued its own statement saying the commission had confirmed that the Brussels meeting would look at "organizing a government to prepare elections."

The commission statement made no mention of organizing a new government, one of the opposition's chief demands.

But the Social Democrats nevertheless indicated the conversation between Hahn and Zaev made the opposition more favorably disposed toward attending the talks.

Based on reporting by Reuters