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The BBC's Raphael Jesurum
"With each attack the idea of peaceful co-existence and a shared idea of Macedonia fade further away"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
Macedonia leaders appeal for calm
Shop in Bitola
Shop windows were smashed and the shops looted

The main Slav and ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia's ruling coalition have warned that recent violence risks destabilising the country and destroying ethnic tolerance.

It was a Kristallnacht, like in 1938 when they attacked Jewish shops. It's the same game

Ethnic Albanian leader
The warning followed fresh rioting in the southern city of Bitola after the funerals of eight members of the Macedonian security forces killed by ethnic Albanians.

Shops were looted after people smashed the windows with stones.

The rioting first began on Tuesday, immediately after the funerals, when hundreds of Macedonians went on the rampage in the ethnically-mixed city.

On Saturday ethnic Albanians killed the eight security personnel and wounded six others in the most serious attack since Macedonian forces pushed back a rebel Albanian insurgency in northern Macedonia.

In separate incidents, one person was killed and two were injured in a shooting in a cafe in the capital Skopje on Tuesday and shots were fired at the Albanian embassy from a passing car, according to Macedonian state radio.

Tirana responded to the embassy shooting by submitting a formal protest to the Macedonian ambassador.

Inter-ethnic dialogue

The senior partners in the governing coalition - the Slav VMRO-DPMNE party - said that the attacks were playing into the hands of extremists.

"Such activities directly contribute to further destabilisation of the country..." a party statement said. "Taking matters into your own hands can only bring unwanted consequences, which is the goal of the terrorists."

The leader of their junior partner - Arben Xhaferri of the Democratic Party of Albanians - compared the attacks to Nazi pogroms against the Jews:

"It was a Kristallnacht, like in 1938 when they attacked Jewish shops. It's the same game."

President Trajkovski and Colin Powell
President Trajkovski won Colin Powell's firm support

People were starting to believe that they could no longer live together, he said.

Ongoing talks between the majority Macedonian and minority Albanian communities have so far failed to produce any concrete results and there have been frequent warnings that the conflict could easily re-ignite.

The Albanians are demanding greater recognition in the constitution, as well as better representation in the administration and increased use of the Albanian language.

US support

On a visit to Washington on Tuesday, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski called on the United States to list the rebel ethnic Albanian organisation the National Liberation Army as a terrorist group to prevent it raising funds in the US.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Mr Trajkovski's handling of what he called "dastardly and cowardly acts from terrorists and terrorist organisations who are trying to subvert the democratic process".

Mr Powell visited Skopje last month to demonstrate his support for the peace process.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | Europe
Attack shakes Macedonia talks
22 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia advances against rebels
11 Mar 01 | Europe
The rebels' agenda
27 Feb 01 | Europe
Clashes empty Macedonia villages
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