Macedonia premier to step down under Western-brokered deal

Macedonia's prime minister is due to step down Friday before an early election on April 24, under the timeline of last year's Western-brokered deal to solve a deep political crisis.

Nikola Gruevski has agreed to hand over to a candidate from his conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, who will head a caretaker government.

Last July's deal with the country's social-democrat main opposition, following mediation from the European Union and the U.S., called for Gruevski to resign 100 days before the polls.

The political crisis stemmed from opposition allegations that the government illegally wire-tapped 20,000 people, including police, judges, journalists and foreign diplomats. The government denies the claims.

EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn is due in Macedonia on Friday for talks with Gruevski and opposition leaders on implementing the agreement.