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The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Thousands took to the streets determined to vent their frustration"
 real 56k

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant
"There haven't been any reports of ethnic cleansing"
 real 28k

Ethnic Albanian MP Azif Pollozhani
"The biggest part of Macedonians and Albanians would like the international community as soon as possible in Macedonia"
 real 28k

OSCE ambassador Carlo Ungaro
"It is certainly an agreement which could be defined as controversial"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Appeal for calm in Macedonia
crowd of protesters outside Skopje parliament
Soldiers joined civilians in the demonstration
The Macedonian Interior Ministry has appealed for calm after overnight violence in the capital, Skopje, raised fears of a possible slide into civil war.

The ministry appealed in a statement for citizens "to respect order, peace and not provoke any incidents".

On Monday night protesters flooded the streets of Skopje and stormed the parliament, calling on President Boris Trajkovski to resign for what they see as his leniency towards ethnic Albanian rebels.

The European Union also appealed for calm in Macedonia on Tuesday, saying that the country could still pull back from the brink of conflict if citizens showed restraint.

Earlier the EU said President Trajkovski remained in "full control" of the country's armed forces, despite the fact that soldiers and police reservists were among the demonstrators.

We have received assurances that the president and government are in full control of the military and the police

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh

He is due to make a television address later on Tuesday.

The protests were some of the biggest seen in the city for years.

"We have received assurances that the president and government are in full control of the military and the police," said Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

"Developments today show how serious the situation is but it is still obvious there is no military solution," added Ms Lindh, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"We hope everybody will realise the only way forward is to refrain from violence and to have legitimate dialogue through the political representatives."

New fighting

But despite the EU's appeal, fresh shelling - the first since Sunday's ceasefire - began again on Tuesday, not far from the flashpoint village of Aracinovo outside Skopje.

Aracinovo burns after Macedonian bombardment
The abandoning of the Aracinovo offensive sparked public anger
The demonstrators who stormed parliament were led by a group of police reservists firing volleys of automatic gunfire in the air.

There were no reports of deaths in the disturbances, but the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Skopje says it was the first time there had been such sustained shooting in the capital.

Three British journalists, including two from a BBC camera crew, were beaten up by the protesters.

Rebel withdrawal

The protest followed a deal, brokered and implemented by Nato and European Union envoys, that allowed ethnic Albanian rebels to leave the village of Aracinovo close to the capital and return to guerrilla-held territory.

One of three villages targeted by Macedonian forces on Tuesday was Nikustak, where the the rebels were taken from Aracinovo.

When the demonstrations began, President Trajkovski was holding talks with Macedonian and ethnic Albanian party leaders inside the parliament building.

Click here to see map of the region

But the politicians managed to leave through a back door before the protesters broke in. Some shouted "Gas chambers for the Albanians!".

Our correspondent says that many Macedonians are furious that the guerrillas were allowed to leave with their weapons, and they are especially angry at the change of attitude in the West.

Javier Solana
EU's Javier Solana brokered the controversial ceasefire
It was only a few weeks ago that Nato was describing the Albanians as terrorists.

Now Macedonians believe the West is treating Macedonia as the guilty party.

The rebels' withdrawal came as fresh fighting erupted around Macedonia's second biggest city, Tetovo.

A Macedonian Interior Ministry official said one policeman was killed and five were wounded in the fighting.

Minority fears

Fears are growing that that increasing uncertainty will spark a new refugee exodus - adding to the thousands who have already crossed into Kosovo.

Thirty Albanian shopkeepers have abandoned their properties in a warehouse district of Skopje after receiving threats from a group calling itself Macedonia Paramilitary 2000.

Ethnic Albanian family at Macedonia-Kosovo border
Ethnic Albanians have been fleeing to Kosovo
"Albanians are in a panic and everyone's preparing to leave," said one young ethnic Albanian man.

Until now, Macedonia's conflict has been limited to fighting between the country's small army and a rebel force.

But a spokesman for the group Human Rights Watch said that if it spilled over into the civilian population, there could be widespread bloodshed.

EU move

EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg told their Macedonian counterpart, Ilinka Mitreva, on Monday that further EU aid would only be available if Macedonia stopped seeking a military victory and pursued a political dialogue.

The EU also decided to send a resident envoy - former French Defence Minister Francois Leotard - to Macedonia, to try to stabilise the peace process. The EU said on Tuesday he would leave for Macedonia "very soon".

Nato says it is ready to send in a peacekeeping force, but only after a peace deal has been reached.

The rebels, who call themselves the National Liberation Army, say they are fighting for equal rights for Macedonia's ethnic Albanians, who make up nearly a third of the population.

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26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Straw cancels Macedonia visit
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