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Macedonia: Rioters Attack Western Offices

Skopje, 25 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Rioters in Macedonia's capital Skopje last night attacked western offices and businesses and set cars on fire. Crowds shouting nationalist slogans threw stones at the U.S., German, and British embassies, smashing some windows.

The rioters accused Western officials of supporting ethnic Albanian rebel fighters, who were engaged in heavy clashes yesterday with government forces around Macedonia's second-largest city of Tetovo.

The Skopje office of the OSCE -- the Organization For Security And Cooperation In Europe -- was also attacked in last night's rampage. Vehicles belonging to the OSCE were burned. Windows were smashed at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant and a British Airways office.

The violence came after Macedonian government spokesman Antonio Milososki accused NATO and Western officials of siding with the ethnic Albanian rebels. This allegation has been strongly denied by NATO, U.S., and European Union officials.

The Macedonian authorities have closed the country's border with Kosovo in neighboring Serbia.

The United States government has urged U.S. citizens to defer travel to Macedonia amid violence in the Balkan country that has included an attack against the U.S. Embassy in Skopje.

The U.S. State Department also said it has authorized the departure from Macedonia of embassy personnel holding non-emergency positions, and family members of embassy staff.

The State Department described the situation in Macedonia as "unsettled and potentially dangerous" as a result of armed clashes between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian extremists. The travel warning cited what it called "rising anti-foreigner sentiment" and an increase in acts of intimidation and violence against American citizens in Macedonia.