Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Albanian leader survives assassination in Macedonia

SKOPJE, May 12 (Reuters) - Shots were fired at a convoy in Macedonia carrying ethnic Albanian opposition leader Ali Ahmeti during election campaigning on Monday, but he was unhurt, police said.
The attack took place near the western town of Tetovo, as Ahmeti toured villages ahead of a June 1 parliamentary election. It followed a string of violent incidents linked to a fierce battle for the ethnic Albanian vote between Ahmeti's Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

"This was an assassination attempt," said senior DUI campaign official Izet Mexhiti. He blamed followers of the DPA. Police said they had detained one person suspected of involvement in the shooting. One person was slightly wounded. The DPA is part of the outgoing ruling coalition led by conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of the VMRO-DPMNE. The government collapsed in April after Greece blocked the country's bid to join NATO in a years-long dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

Ahmeti led an insurgency against government forces in 2001, before Western powers mediated a peace accord offering the 25 percent Albanian minority greater rights. Having entered politics, Ahmeti was frozen out of government by Gruevski in 2006. The West is watching closely for any sign of renewed tension, having only just steered ethnic Albanians in neighbouring Kosovo to independence from Serbia.

Previous elections in Macedonia have been marred by campaign violence and voting irregularities, something the European Union says Skopje must stamp out in order to progress towards membership of the bloc. (Reporting by Kole Casule; writing by Matt Robinson)

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