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Macedonians Protest Crucial Minority Rights Deal

27 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of people in the Macedonian capital Skopje have taken to the streets to protest a government plan to give more rights to the country's ethnic Albanian minority.

Riot police guarded the parliament building as lawmakers inside debated the bill, which would redraw municipal boundaries and give the Albanian minority greater control in areas where they form a majority.

The plan represents the final stage in implementing the so-called Ohrid agreement, which ended clashes between government forces and Albanian militants three years ago.

But protesters say the measures will ultimately divide Macedonia along ethnic lines.

The proposal has already sparked violence. On 23 July, protesters in the mainly ethnic Albanian western town of Struga attacked a government office and shops owned by Albanians. At least 40 people were wounded in that violence.


Analysis: Macedonia's Redistricting Imbroglio