Macedonian ministers quit coalition positions

Friday, November 23, 2001

SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Three ministers resigned Thursday, jolting a broad-based coalition government that was created to back Macedonia's fragile peace process.

The resignations followed a decision Tuesday by a key Macedonian party -- the Social Democrats -- to leave the government, saying the threat of ethnic war no longer exists.

The party's three top officials -- the foreign minister, the defense minister and Macedonia's deputy prime minister -- all left Thursday to protest what they called Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's hard-line policies toward ethnic Albanians.

Created in May under a Western-engineered peace plan, the coalition government brought together top Macedonian and ethnic Albanian parties to seek a political solution to the ethnic Albanian insurgency that had threatened to explode into civil war.

The Social Democrats said they would now "focus on issues in parliament" ahead of January general elections.

They charged Georgievski with incompetence and "catastrophic economic policies," indicating that the Social Democrats are gearing up for a tough elections bid.

Parliament was to convene today to formally accept the Social Democrats' resignations, along with those of one minister and two deputy ministers from a minor party, the Liberal Alliance. The three walked out Wednesday.

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