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Macedonian FM hopes for early start to EU membership talks

Macedonian FM hopes for early start to EU membership talks

Macedonia's foreign minister said Tuesday he expects his country to get a date soon for the start of European Union membership talks despite an EU warning after election violence.
"We're not prepared to become a member of the EU tomorrow but we're prepared to start the negotiations tomorrow. I think this year we will be given a chance," Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki told journalists after lobbying EU officials for early talks.
Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will soon travel to Macedonia to assess its progress.
Violence during June 1 parliamentary elections prompted warnings by the EU that the Balkan country must do better to ensure basic democratic principles are upheld if it wants to become an EU member. The issue is likely to come up at next week's summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
Milososki said those who stirred violence in an election marred by gunbattles, fighting and fraud would be prosecuted. One person was killed and eight were wounded in the fighting.
He added he hoped Greece would not undermine negotiations. The two countries are embroiled in a bitter dispute over Macedonia's name.
Greece argues the name Macedonia implies expansionist claims on the northern Greek province of the same name. Athens has vowed to prevent its neighbor from joining NATO or the European Union until the issue is resolved. U.N.-brokered talks aimed at resolving the dispute remain deadlocked.