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Macedonia president appeals for calm

Macedonia protests
Rioting broke out over the terms of a cease-fire with ethnic Albanian rebels  


SKOPJE, Macedonia (CNN) -- Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski has appealed for calm in an address to the nation.

He also defended a deal that allowed ethnic Albanian rebels to retreat from a village without surrendering their weapons.

That NATO-escorted withdrawal sparked demonstrations on Monday night and some 5,000 Slav protesters stormed parliament.

"You gave me a mandate for peace and tranquility, not war," Trajkovski said in a speech broadcast on radio and television. He criticised the rioters.

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"The rage on the streets is not the answer," Trajkovski said, adding that his government had accomplished what it set out to do and that actions against what he described as terrorists would continue, even as diplomatic efforts moved forward.

"Every step of the Macedonian territory will be defended," he said.

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Trajkovski was originally supposed to speak on Tuesday morning, but that was delayed as he consulted with other politicians. He said his government was united in its approach to the crisis.

Sources inside the president's office have told CNN that politicians are panicky over how to prevent a repeat of Monday night's storming of the parliament.

Angry Slav demonstrators were protesting against the government's handling of a ceasefire with ethnic Albanian rebels and demanded Trajkovski's resignation.

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Skopje, the capital city, was quiet on Tuesday, but remained tense after Monday night's violent protests, which came during a day that started with great progress following the European Union-backed ceasefire that quickly degenerated.

Government troops shelled rebel position outside the capital.

Demonstrators were furious over what they said was Trajkovski's bowing to international pressure by allowing rebels to take their weapons with them as they pulled back from the town of Aracinovo -- a suburb of Skopje.

They said he was too lenient with the rebels and demanded the Macedonian government take a tougher stand.

Anti-NATO graffiti could be found on some city streets.

Trajkovski's government has been negotiating with ethnic Albanian political parties on a ceasefire.

The rebels have maintained they are fighting for civil rights for the Albanian minority, but the Slav majority has signaled its displeasure with the ceasefire plan.

While the Macedonian government has been asking NATO for peacekeeping troops to disarm the Albanian rebels, the European Union and NATO have been pressuring the government to find a diplomatic solution to the problem.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley conceded that NATO troops had played a new role in escorting the rebels out, but warned against viewing it as a major policy shift.

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Youths and police officers protest in front of the parliament building in Skopje.  

"It was a new event," he said at a regular Pentagon briefing. "We've not done this before. But what I'm reluctant to predict is this being a harbinger of some major new policy decision and a new area of continued activity on the part of U.S. forces. I do not think that is the case.

"But sometimes you're confronted with a particular set of tactical details and you take all the elements into account as best you can and you make your decision.

"And in this case, we think that that was a positive decision, one that contributed to the purpose of carrying out the mission in the first place, and that was to defuse the situation in Aracinovo."

-- CNN's Nic Robertson and Juliette Terzieff contributed to this report.





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