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Meeting Of Macedonian Leaders Canceled, Violence Condemned


The head of an alliance of Macedonian lawmakers has refused to meet with President Gjorge Ivanov, a day after scores of protesters stormed the Balkan country's parliament and assaulted him and several other deputies.

The European Union, the United States, and several countries in the region quickly condemned the violence, which has deepened a two-year political stalemate in the EU candidate state.

EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini called it "particularly worrying and very sad."

"We consider violence always unacceptable, even more so when it happens in the house of democracy, in parliament," Mogherini told reporters in Malta on April 28 ahead of an EU meeting.

"We believe that all in Skopje should follow the constitutional principles, democracy and try to bring the country out of this serious crisis that can be dangerous," she said.

WATCH: EU Foreign-Policy Chief Condemns Macedonia Violence

Demonstrators, some wearing black masks, rampaged through parliament on April 27 after an alliance of Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties approved Talat Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian, as speaker of parliament.

Zoran Zaev, the head of a newly formed coalition that said it was trying to assert its right to govern by electing the new parliament speaker, left the building with blood streaming from his head.

Three lawmakers from ethnic Albanian parties were also injured, including Ziadin Sela, leader of the Albanian Alliance, who was taken to the emergency room of a Skopje clinic.

In all, 77 people were injured, including 22 police officers, as clashes between police and protesters spilled onto the streets outside the building, authorities said.

The U.S. Embassy in Skopje also condemned the violence "in the strongest terms," saying in a message on its Twitter account that it was "not consistent with democracy and is not an acceptable way to resolve differences."

Long-simmering tensions have come to a boil in the nation of 2.1 million, with an ethnic Macedonian majority and a large ethnic Albanian minority, amid protests over the inclusion of ethnic Albanian partners in a proposed governing coalition led by the Social Democrats.

After December elections failed to show a clear-cut victor, Zaev agreed to form a coalition with some ethnic Albanian parties in exchange for accepting their demands for greater rights and the establishment of Albanian as a second official language in certain areas of the country.

But Ivanov has refused to give Zaev the official mandate to move ahead with the plan, arguing that the language issue was an attempt to destroy Macedonia's independence. He has also accused Albania of interference in its domestic affairs.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic called on April 28 for emergency security consultations over the political turmoil and unrest in its southern neighbor.

Macedonia fell into its current political crisis two years ago amid claims that the governing conservative party, VMRO-DPMNE, led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, was responsible for the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people including journalists, politicians, and religious leaders.

Gruevski told reporters at his party headquarters on April 28 that he condemned the violence, but that the Social Democrats bear some responsibility, asserting that what he called their "greed for power at any cost" was its "direct cause."

Zaev on April 28 accused the VMRO-DPMNE of not wanting to give up power.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, AP, and Reuters
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