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Macedonian PM threatens early election over political deadlock

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski addresses the media after the International Court of Justice announced their verdict in Skopje Dec
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski addresses the media after the International Court of Justice announced their verdict in Skopje Dec

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonia's prime minister threatened on Saturday to call a snap election unless the main opposition party did more to resolve a political deadlock that is damaging its European Union membership prospects.

Nikola Gruevski said the prospect of opening EU entry talks could be withdrawn if the conservative government and the centre-left Social Democrats failed to produce an agreed report on an incident last December when opposition legislators were thrown out for brawling.

A joint government-opposition commission, formed under EU pressure, said on Friday it was unable to agree on what had happened in the incident, when police evicted journalists and opposition deputies during parliament's budget debate.

Gruevski told the Social Democrats that if they did not help by Sunday to adopt the report requested by the EU, he would call a snap election to try to maintain Macedonia's standing in Brussels.

"The second option is to convene parliament on Monday and vote to disband it and call an early election for October," he told a news conference. He said he had enough support in parliament to win the vote.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said in February that failure to resolve the dispute was putting at risk an opportunity for Macedonia to clinch the start of membership talks.

The small Balkan country has been an EU candidate since 2005, but has failed to receive a date to open accession talks because of a dispute with neighboring EU member Greece over Macedonia's name.

Athens says the name implies a territorial claim on the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

But the European Commission, mindful of the threat of instability in a country that lurched to the brink of civil war in 2001, has signaled it might agree to open accession talks this year even without first resolving the name dispute.

Greece vetoed Macedonia's entry into NATO in 2008 and has threatened to block its path towards EU as well, unless a compromise solution is found.

(Reporting by Kole Casule; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Kevin Liffey)

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