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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Macedonia talks 'progress'
Solana spoke of optimism following the talks with ethnic Albanian and Macedonian leaders
EU envoy Javier Solana spoke of a significant progress
By Nick Wood in Skopje

The European Union's top foreign envoy, Javier Solana, has left Macedonia claiming new hope for the country's peace process.

He said political parties had overcome a stumbling block preventing the ratification of a peace deal.

I have an agreement. We have all the amendments agreed and I hope that now the government and the parliament can continue the parliamentary process without any difficulty

Javier Solana
But it now seems ethnic Albanian politicians are unhappy with the proposals.

It has been two months since a Western-brokered peace deal was signed, effectively ending months of conflict.

But the accord, which requires key changes to the country's constitution, has yet to be passed by parliament.

After weeks of delays, MPs appear close to agreement on most of the changes, but are still debating the special status given to ethnic Macedonians in a preamble to the constitution.

The negotiations centre on a deal signed by Macedonians and ethnic Albanians last August
Ethnic Albanian MPs want equal status

They are referred to as a nation or people, a definition that Albanians felt discriminated against them, and it has been replaced with a new clause.

However, the country's President Boris Trajkowski warned earlier this week that MPs were unlikely to accept such a compromise.

Longed-for normality

Javier Solana gave party leaders a new proposal before he left for Brussels.

It says the republic is the state of the Macedonian people as well as citizens that are part of the Albanian peoples and other minorities.

The dispute is over just a few words, but Albanian MPs see it as critical to their future within the state and are opposed to it.

At the same time the failure to come to an agreement is delaying the country's return to normality.

So long as the peace accord is not ratified, both the European Union and Nato say they will not back the return of the police and the armed forces to former rebel-held areas.

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See also:

23 Oct 01 | Europe
Blasts rock Macedonia village
31 Aug 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Macedonia: Wobbling Balkans domino
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