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An improved hybrid position/force controller design of a flexible robot manipulator is presented using a sliding observer. The friction between the end effector and the environment is considered and compensated. For systematic reasons the controller is designed taking into consideration the rigid link subsystems and the flexible joints. The proposed control system satisfies the stability of the two subsystems and copes with the uncertainty of robot dynamics. A sliding observer is designed to estimate the time derivative of the torque applied as input to the rigid part of the robot. For the stability of the observer, it is assumed that the uncertainty of the observed system is bounded. A MRAC algorithm is used for the estimation of the friction forces at the contact point between the end effector and the environment. Finally simulation and experimental results are given, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed controller.