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Macedonian Authorities Condemn Wave Of Ethnic Violence

Macedonian Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska
Macedonian Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska
The interior minister of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia has condemned a recent wave of ethnically motivated violence, including a series of attacks this week that left nearly a dozen people injured.

Speaking on March 9 in a report to parliament, Gordana Jankulovska said the ministry had appealed for calm following repeated clashes between the country's ethnic Macedonian and Albanian communities.

"The Interior Ministry has made a strong appeal for tensions to be reduced," Jankulovska said. "We ask all political factions to do their best to help us to overcome this situation."

The authorities say at least 10 people were injured in a number of overnight attacks on March 7, with groups of youths hurling stones at buses and using baseball bats to beat passengers. The ethnic identity of the attackers and the victims was not clear.

Jankulovska said a total of 38 people had been injured in clashes since the beginning of the year.

Ermira Mehmeti, the head of the parliamentary committee on interethnic relations, said on March 9 it was crucial to address the tensions before they got worse.

"Good interethnic relations and coexistence are the priorities of this state," Mehmeti said. "Therefore, there is need for a discussion about these events and their impact and influence on interethnic and interreligious relations in the Republic of Macedonia."

Ethnic Albanians are believed to make up one-fourth of Macedonia's population of 2 million.

Relations between Albanians and the Macedonian majority remain scarred by a 2001 government offensive aimed at crushing an ethnic Albanian insurgency.

Ralf Breth, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation's Skopje mission, on March 9 called on the authorities to fully investigate the incidents and said violence was unacceptable "in a sensitive multiethnic environment."

The U.S. Embassy has condemned the latest violence.

A Macedonian analyst, speaking to RFE/RL, expressed fear the renewed tensions meant the country was "approaching an abyss."

With AFP reporting

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