Macedonia Slavs Erupt After Rebel Pullout

From Reuters

Armed police reservists broke into Macedonia's parliament Monday, firing into the air from a balcony to the cheers of thousands of demonstrators, as Slav anger erupted over government handling of an Albanian revolt.

The protests in the Balkan country's capital came as fighting raged around a west Macedonian town even as NATO helped evacuate ethnic Albanian guerrillas from a strategic village under a cease-fire deal.

A heavy exchange of fire erupted in the hills around the mainly ethnic Albanian town of Tetovo just as convoys of buses left the village of Aracinovo, about 30 miles to the east, in an elaborate operation involving the United States, France and Italy.

A Macedonian Interior Ministry official said one police officer was killed and five were wounded around Tetovo when guerrillas attacked from several directions as the convoys withdrew under a Western-brokered deal to end a three-day army offensive.

The deal, reached in frantic shuttle diplomacy by NATO and European Union envoys, was supposed to reduce the threat of fighting spilling over into civil war.

But it appeared to have enraged the Macedonian population and sparked the violent protests in Skopje.

As the group of police reservists broke into parliament, demonstrators vented their fury at the government, chanting, "Traitors! Traitors!" and "Give us weapons! Give us weapons!" and "Death to the Albanians!"

At least three reservists fired several volleys of automatic gunfire into the air from the building's balcony. Other reservists shot into the air from the square outside as thousands of people cheered.

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski told reporters that a cease-fire begun almost two weeks ago, but torn up by an army assault over the weekend, was meaningless.

The European Union, increasingly impatient at the failure to achieve a settlement, told Macedonia it must stop seeking a military victory, resume negotiations on political reforms and make rapid progress if it wants further EU aid.

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