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Macedonia: Minority marks Albanian independence

Associated Press Modified: November 25, 2012 at 11:16 am •  Published: November 25, 2012

"We ask whether Gruevski and Ahmeti are aware that their irresponsible behavior and harmful policies will cause fresh ethnic tension and undermine the rule of law?" deputy Social Democrat leader Gordan Georgiev said recently.

Even Gruevski allies have publicly argued that the Albanian celebrations are part of a minority drive toward creating a largely autonomous state — a notion dismissed by Ahmeti.

Stojance Angelov — leader of Dignity, an association of Macedonian veterans of the 2001 ethnic conflict — said such a move would be unfair and damaging to Macedonia.

In an interview with Channel Five TV, Ahmeti said, "Raising the Albanian national flag is not a demonstration of power, but part of a great date for us Albanians and ... should not be seen as a provocation to the Macedonians."

He said, "We do not have any pretensions to dividing Macedonia because Macedonia is our country, Macedonia is our homeland. Our ancestors were here, our future is here and we need to build our future together."

Relations between the two main coalition partners have, however, soured in recent weeks after the country's ethnic Albanian defense minister paid tribute to the insurgents of 2001. Gruevski responded by presenting draft legislation to grant pensions to former government soldiers who fought in the ethnic conflict — but not to rebel veterans.

Two recent incidents in neighboring Albania also have raised tensions in Macedonia.

Macedonian national flags were set on fire in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and eggs were thrown at a car carrying Gruevski as the Macedonian prime minister visited Tirana.

Macedonia's government complained about both incidents, and the Albanian foreign ministry condemned them.