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Slovenians divided on Croatia border deal referendum: polls

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(LJUBLJANA) - Slovenians are divided a week ahead of a referendum on a deal with Croatia to allow an arbitration panel to settle a long-running border dispute, according to polls published Saturday.

A poll published by Ljubljana's daily Dnevnik showed 37.6 percent of citizens would vote against the deal while 37 percent would back the agreement signed by the government with Croatia last November.

Another survey published by the Delo daily said 50.7 percent of voters backed the deal while 36.1 percent would vote against it.

Both polls indicated that between 16 and 20 percent of citizens had not yet made up their mind.

The governments of Slovenia and Croatia agreed in November that an arbitration panel should decide on a small piece of land and sea disputed by the two former Yugoslav states for the past 18 years.

The Slovenian parliament ratified the deal last month but the ruling coalition and the opposition agreed to hold a referendum on the issue that is seen by most Slovenians as crucial for the country's interests.

Under the terms of the deal, the arbitration panel's ruling on the matter will be legally binding.

In terms of Slovenian law, if voters reject the deal at the referendum, parliament will have to wait for 12 months before being able to reconsider it.

The centre-right opposition believes the deal is harmful for Slovenia's interests and hopes it will be rejected at the referendum.

The issue has stalled Zagreb's negotiations to join the European Union.

The Croatian parliament ratified the deal in November.

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