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Macedonia: No progress in talks between political leaders

People wave national flags during a protest in front of the Government building in Skopje, Macedonia, on Sunday, May 17, 2015. Macedonian opposition started massive demonstrations Sunday in Skopje protesting against the conservative government of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, demanding its resignation. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia’s four main political leaders failed to make any progress in talks Monday aimed at resolving the crisis that has roiled the country for months.

Opposition leader Zoran Zaev of the Social Democrats said the impasse will not be solved until the conservative government resigns and a caretaker government is formed to organize a fair, transparent election.

The meeting, organized by Western diplomats, was attended by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Zaev and two ethnic Albanian political leaders: Ali Ahmeti, head of a junior governing coalition partner and Menduh Thaci, leader of an opposition party.

Macedonia faces one of its deepest political crises since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, stemming from opposition claims that the government illegally wire-tapped 20,000 people.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people held an anti-government protest outside the government building in Skopje. Hundreds remained there Monday.

“We are not leaving this place until the government falls. Because we love this country (the government) has stolen. Because we want the democracy they killed. Because we love our children, whom they corrupted,” said opposition supporter Pande Josevski.

A rival pro-government demonstration has been called for Monday evening in front of the parliament building, 1 kilometer (half a mile) away.

“The main goal is to give a chance to citizens who are against this destabilization to have a say,” Ilija Dimovski of the prime minister’s conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, told the Telma TV channel.

The political crisis stems from Zaev’s release of a cache of wiretapped conversations that appear to reveal corruption at the highest levels of government. He says the tapes were leaked to him by domestic intelligence agents and claims Gruevski was behind the wiretaps.

Gruevski, who has won successive elections since 2006, rejects the accusations and accuses Zaev of participating in a coup plot backed by foreign spy agencies.

Compounding the crisis, a group of armed ethnic Albanians fought a gunbattle with Macedonian police on May 9 in a northern border town, leaving 18 people dead — 10 gunmen and eight police.

In Brussels, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said Macedonia should work to de-escalate the conflict.

“The important thing is to avoid more violence, to make sure that the democratic institutions are developed and that a rule of law is implemented,” Stoltenberg said.

The European Parliament has invited Gruevski and Zaev to Strasburg for talks Tuesday to resolve the crisis.

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