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Macedonia Party Threatens Coalition.


Saturday September 15 5:40 PM ET
By ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC, Associated Press Writer

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - A key Macedonian party threatened on Saturday to leave the government coalition if parliament passes a proposal to hold a referendum on the country's peace process.

The pro-western Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia supports the peace process and is concerned that a referendum would stall passage of the plan.

The Alliance ``will not participate in something we do not believe in,'' said its leader, Branko Crvenkovski.

The threat presents a significant problem for Macedonia as it inches forward with efforts to halt six months of conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonians. Having all of Macedonia's parties take part in a government of national unity was the basis of Western efforts to avert all-out war here.

Macedonia's government, meanwhile, proposed that NATO keep some troops in the troubled Balkan country - even after the expiration of its mandate to collect ethnic Albanian rebel weapons, government officials said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Macedonia suggested that NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson keep about 350 troops in the country to protect monitors who will assess the situation after the 4,700 troops of Operation Essential Harvest end their mission on Sept. 26, the government sources said.

A spokesman at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Yves Brodeur, said no formal request had been received yet.

The request comes as parliament speaker, Stojan Andov, scheduled a discussion on the referendum proposal, now set for Monday.

The proposal by the small New Democracy Party needs a simple majority of 61 votes in the 120-seat parliament for it to pass.

The peace plan calls for all parliamentary action to occur within 45 days of the start of NATO's plan to collect weapons voluntarily handed in by the ethnic Albanian rebels.

Under the deal, parliament adopts constitutional changes in stages, while the weapons are collected.

NATO has already collected more than two thirds of some 3,300 rebel arms. Parliament must now discuss constitutional amendments before the alliance can proceed with the final phase of weapons collection.

President Boris Trajkovski submitted draft proposals for the constitutional amendments to Andov, the last formal step necessary before parliament convenes, state television reported.

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