Friday, March 07, 2008

Injuries & Arrests After Macedonia Protest

Skopje _ Nine police officers were injured, including one seriously, and eight people arrested after a rally in which thousands of Macedonians protested in defence of the country's constitutional name.

The arrests and injuries came after the demonstration when a small group of youths tried to break through the police cordon to reach the Greek embassy, but failed. Protesters then threw stones at the police officers.

Police said Thursday that eight people were arrested, while nine police officers, were injured. One of the officers received serious head injuries.

A photographer was also hurt.

Earlier some 5000 Macedonians had gathered outside the Macedonian Parliament for the protest, which passed off peacefully.

The crowd, made up of mainly young people, were waving Macedonian flags and displaying banners with messages reading, "We have only one name", "Our name is not for sale" and "The Youth says Macedonia."

"Macedonia was, is, and will be Macedonia," was the main message of the protest.

Several students from the organisers, two popular young pop singers and a famous actor addressed the crowd before the protesters dispersed after about an hour.

There were claims by speakers that the protest was merely a dress rehersal that should serve as a warning to anyone who dares to change Macedonia's name.

Macedonia should halt United Nations-sponsored negotiations on its disputed constitutional name because they are absurd, the speakers told the crowd.

Large numbers of police were deployed to secure foreign embassies. Police in riot gear sealed off all streets leading to the Greek Liaisons Office in the centre of the capital, to prevent a repeat of an last week's incident where youngsters attempted to pelt the building with stones.

Athens disputes Skopje’s use of its constitutional name, “Republic of Macedonia” saying the term Macedonia is a part of Greek national heritage and its use by others implies territorial claims on its northern province of the same name.

A rally led by the Greek ultranationalist right wing party Popular Orthodox Rally Party, LAOS, in Greece's northern city of Thessaloniki was supposed to happen at a same time but was rescheduled for next week at the last minute.

It was expected to urge Greek leaders not to accept any compromises in the name dispute.

On February 19, the UN mediator in the dispute, Matthew Nimetz handed both sides a proposal for a compromise solution in a last ditch attempt to resolve the 13 year-old dispute before April’s NATO summit in Bucharest, where Greece is threatening to veto Macedonia’s membership bid if a solution is not reached by then.

No comments: