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Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha welcomes Ekaterina Mihailova, leader of UDF, with a smile at the yesterday's consultations in the parliament. At the end-meeting, however, Mihailova and her men isolated themselves from NMS II in a separate room and refused to get out together with them before the journalists. The UDF negotiators spent almost an hour with the King's men
PHOTO Marina Angelova

Macedonian talks hit stumbling block on Albanian language.


SKOPJE, July 17 (AFP) -

Demands by Macedonia's ethnic Albanians to see their language given official status was proving a sticking point on Tuesday in talks aimed at bringing a political settlement to months of violence.

"There are still crucial questions that the (Slav) Macedonian side will not give in on ... above all on the question of making Albanian an official language ... it's something we can't accept," a government source told AFP.

Talks between the country's Slav and ethnic Albanian representatives, mediated by US and EU envoys, have been in progress since July 9, in an effort to reach a deal on constitutional reform aimed at ending a five-month ethnic Albanian uprising.

But while reports from the marathon talks have expressed optimism that a deal was close, the country's Slav majority has shown no sign of conceding on the language issue -- at the centre of Albanian demands.

Making up between a quarter and a third of the country's population, ethnic Albanians have demanded that the language be made the country's second official tongue, something the Slavs categorically reject.

"It is acceptable for Albanian to become the second language in the areas where they make up the majority or are over 20 percent of the population... but we are not prepared to make it an official language," the government source said.

A Western source said Monday that the talks were progressing, although he ruled out the possibility that a deal would be struck as early as Tuesday.

The procedure for parliamentary voting is proving another stumbling block in negotiations, with Albanian representatives demanding a veto in the assembly on cultural and identity-related issues, saying such a measure would guarantee minority rights.

The rights issue was at the centre of a draft constitutional proposal presented by US special envoy James Pardew and his EU counterpart Francois Leotard to political and legal experts and the country's political parties.

An agreement on reforms could pave the way for a NATO deployment in the country with the strictly defined mission of disarming ethnic Albanian rebels, who have been fighting Macedonian security forces in the north of the country since February.

The rebels have remained active in the Tetovo region west of the capital Skopje, despite a ceasefire which has been in force since July 5.

NATO Secretary General George Robertson and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana are due to travel to Skopje on Thursday for a two-day visit, diplomatic sources in Brussels said earlier Tuesday.

They were to meet Macedonia's President Boris Trajkovski and leaders of the country's Slav and ethnic Albanian political parties, one of the sources said.

UDF Declared War on Simeon II.


UDF declined the coalition with NMS II because of the MRF before understanding what they are offered

The UDF declared war on the ruling majority because of the participation of the MRF in the cabinet. Yesterday, the UDF refused not only to take part in the government but even to support it. At the end of the concluding meeting between the NMS II and UtdDF, that lasted only an hour and 15 minutes, Ekaterina Mihailova and her fellow-party members went into a separate room not to appear before journalists together with the King's men. The results of the vote are assigning us the role of opposition, said Ekaterina Mihailova after the talks. She declared that the UtdDF wanted to support an independent cabinet of NMS II to avoid the possibility of pressure on the NMS II on the part of MRF. (MG)

We are under the impression that there will be a bilateral coalition with the MRF, thus our support is not needed, said the UDF leader. According to Mihailova, participation of Ahmed Dogan ensures for the ruling majority 121 votes in the parliament. To the UDF the door will be always open, commented in spite of that Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, nominee for the PM. Before the negotiations two documents with proposals to the UtdDF had been prepared by Simeon II, Plamen Panajotov, Nikolai Vassilev and Vesselin Bliznakov. The first was a draft agreement on the coalition government, while the second - declaration of support for the key priorities. The UtdDF refused even to look them through. However, they knew in advance that the agreement envisages that UtdDF will take over the ministry of defense and 4 key positions in parliamentary commissions. Besides, they were promised a chance to keep almost all of their deputy ministers. All our deputy ministers will withdraw, said flatly Ekaterina Mihailova. As a result, UtdDF and BSP, as an opposition, will get 2 chairman's posts in the parliamentary commissions.

Anelia Basheva

Ex Bulgarian king forms coalition with Turkish minority party.


SOFIA, July 17 (AFP) -

Former Bulgarian king Simeon II's movement struck a coalition deal with the Turkish-minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MDL) on Tuesday, after winning elections last month, the two parties said.

The deal, which will bring the Turkish minority party into government for the first time in the country's modern history, will be formally signed on Friday, said Plamen Panayotov of the National Movement Simeon II (NMS II).

"It is important for the country to have a broad coalition," said the 64-year-old former monarch, who was forced into exile in 1946, and has spent most of his life as a successful businessman in Spain.

"This day will remain in the country's new history. Dialogue, tolerance and a new political style create great opportunities for Bulgaria," said MDL head Ahmed Dogan.

The NMS II won 120 seats in the 240-member parliament in the June 17 elections, while the MDL won 21 seats. The outgoing centre-right Union of Democratic Forces won 51 seats, while the Socialist Party (PSB) took 48.

Simeon, who will himself become prime minister in the new government, made clear he wanted the UDF to join his movement in a coalition, but they refused, while saying they would support the government in parliament.

The NMS II and the MDL agreed Tuesday on the "priorities and structure of the government," and the "distribution of ministries" between the two parties, their representatives said.

Under Simeon, there will be three deputy prime ministers, while a state administration ministry will be created and the government agencies of energy and youth and sport will be transformed into ministries.

The NMS II will chair 13 committees in parliament, the MDL three, the UDF two and the PSB two.

The coalition deal must be approved by the NMS II and MDL parliamentary groups before being signed Friday.

There would be three Vice-Premiers in the new Cabinet.

National Movement Simeon II and Rights and Freedoms Movement agreed on signing a political agreement for a coalition government after three-hour talks today, Plamen Panayotov said for Agency. The new Cabinet would have three Vice-Premiers and a Minister of State Administration. The names of the new Ministers would be announced after the approval of the political agreement by the two parliamentary groups. The political agreement between the participants in the ruling coalition between National Movement Simeon II and Rights and Freedoms Movement would take place on July 20 in the Parliament.

UDF expressed fears of the RFM plans to change the Constitution.

Commenting plans of the Rights and Freedoms Movement to make amendments in the Constitution, the Chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces parliamentary group Nadezhda Mihailova said that todays meeting of the Union of Democratic Forces National Executive Council had discussed the statements of the Rights and Freedoms Movement that Bulgarian Constitution should be amended by including a clause recognizing that Bulgaria is a multiethnic state. The member of the National Executive Council Mihail Mihailov said demanding amendments in the Constitution that were not proposed in the negotiating process would be extremely inappropriate while negotiations about membership in the European Union have been taking place.

Monarchy could not be restored, according to Hristo Danov.

Commenting his meeting with resigned Premier Ivan Kostov, the Chairman of Constitutional Court Hristo Danov said that he had expressed his admiration for that, which Ivan Kostov has achieved during his rule. In his letter to Hristo Danov, the Premier has mentioned the considerable role of Constitutional Court for the crucial choice of Bulgaria during the Kosovo crisis, and has expressed his confidence that Constitutional Court would continue to be the guarantee of the Constitution. Hristo Danov also said that restoration of monarchy would be almost impossible, since Constitution has stipulated an extremely difficult procedure concerning such a move.

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