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9, May-2001.


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At todays meeting, leaders of VMRO-DPMNE - Ljubco Georgievski, SDSM - Branko Crvenkovski, DPA - Arben Xhaferi, and PDP - Imer Imeri agreed on the establishment of large governmental coalition - Government of political unity. The governmental coalition will also include few other political parties.

The new Government will be introduced at the Assembly session on Sunday.


Two Macedonian army soldiers watch the village of Vishtica, some 40 kms northeast of the capital Skopje, May 9, 2001. The Macedonian army resumed shelling of suspected ethnic Albanian rebel positions near the border with Kosovo in the morning but in the afternoon shelling subsided as the government and the main opposition ethnic Albanian party were preparing a quiet deal to break a limbo in the formation of a national unity government. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski


A Macedonian army soldier loads his tank-mounted heavy machine gun near the village of Vishtica, 40 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital Skopje May 9, 2001. The Macedonian army resumed shelling of suspected ethnic Albanian rebels positions near the border with Kosovo in the morning but in the afternoon shelling subsided as the government and the main opposition ethnic Albanian party prepared a deal in the formation of a national unity government. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski


Macedonians look at weapons on display at an arms fair in the Macedonian capital Skopje May 9, 2001. "Most of the people here have come to look, not to buy" said marketing executive Dobre Smileski of a Macedonian defence firm. REUTERS/Oleg Popov

Hopes rise for Macedonia.



The bombardment continues though talks are upbeat.

The Macedonian army has renewed its bombardment of rebel Albanian positions as political moves to create a government of national unity edge forward.

Rebels in the northern village of Slupcane fired on Macedonian troops at dawn and the army responded by shelling the village.

In the capital, Skopje, political parties from both sides of the ethnic divide were putting the finishing touches to a new, broader coalition.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Skopje says that the mood in the capital is upbeat and that there is general agreement that the new government offers the best chance for peace.

Rebel threat

He says there is a widespread feeling that the rebels should now withdraw to give peace a chance.

But the rebels of the National Liberation Army (NLA) warned that their exclusion from the talks would lead to more violence.

"Any government formed... without the participation of the NLA will only let more blood get spilled," Commander Sokoli told a news agency in Kosovo.

The negotiations included an agreement to bring forward scheduled parliamentary elections to January 2002.

But talks faltered when the mainstream opposition ethnic Albanian party - the Party of Democratic Prosperity - said it would not join the proposed coalition unless the government agrees to a ceasefire.

Refugees flee

On Tuesday, heavy shelling of rebel-occupied villages in the north of the country continued until nightfall.

The Macedonian army, supported by assault helicopters, concentrated its fire on the village of Vakcince, 25km north-east of Skopje. The village of Slupcane was also hit.

There are unconfirmed reports that a temporary truce will come into force later on Wednesday. That would allow humanitarian organisations access to people who have been trapped by the fighting.

Our correspondent says the Macedonian army is facing a dilemma in trying to deal with the rebels - whether to launch a ground attack and risk heavy casualties, or continue the stand-off.

About 7,000 villagers - mostly ethnic Albanian women, children and old men - have fled the area in the past few days and correspondents say hundreds of families are spending their nights in cellars.

On Wednesday, the government renewed its call on villagers to evacuate the villages it is targeting.

The Macedonian Government has been considering declaring a state of war, which would give it broad powers and loosen restraints on the army.

But it said on Tuesday that the plans were off the agenda for now.

UN: No Vote for Kosovo Independence.


Wednesday May 9 11:00 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The chief U.N. administrator in Kosovo said Wednesday that despite pressure by ethnic Albanians for a referendum on independence, a framework agreement for the Yugoslav province will not include such a clause.

Hans Haekkerup said he had worked hard to accommodate the wishes of both sides but that absolute consensus was not possible and he would not be pushed beyond his mandate for establishing guidelines for a new Kosovo government.

``The international community does not want any referendum clause in the legal framework,'' he said.

Haekkerup briefed the U.N. Security Council Wednesday in a close-door session on progress towards elections in Kosovo, the needs of the U.N. mission there and the impact of neighboring violence on the fragile province.

Acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, the current Council president, announced that a Security Council mission would visit Kosovo June 15-18. He said there were ``varying views expressed on the process of moving towards elections,'' but that all members were supportive of Kaekkerup's efforts.

The final framework is being complied and will be ready soon, the U.N. representative said, adding that the ``expectation is that elections will be late this year.''

A planned Kosovo legislative assembly of 120 members would include 100 seats elected proportionally, 10 seats reserved for Kosovo Serbs and 10 seats for other minorities.

The United Nations has been administering the province since 1999, after a78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Yugoslav troops from Kosovo.

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