Reuters International

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said on Friday he stood by his decision to grant pardons to 56 officials in a wire-tapping scandal despite days of street protests and mounting national and international calls to change his mind.

The amnesty granted by Ivanov this week prevents the 56 government and opposition officials from being investigated over revelations of a vast wire-tapping operation that has caused a long-running political crisis in the Balkan nation.

Macedonia's three leading political parties wrote to Ivanov on Friday urging him to withdraw the pardons and the United States and other governments have urged him to reconsider.

Ivanov said in a national address that he was standing firm on his decision, but said that any of the 56 people who had received pardons and wanted to prove their innocence in court could ask for the pardon to be overturned in their case.

"I think the decision protects the state interest and I inform you that I am standing by it," Ivanov said.

"Anyone who thinks that a right has been taken from him or that I have done him a bad favour, or wants to prove his innocence in court, I call on him personally, in a written form, to submit a request to annul the decision regarding him," he added.

Ivanov also warned diplomats to be measured in their response to the pardons. Ambassadors from EU countries attended a news conference by a special prosecutor in Skopje on Thursday who said she would continue to investigate the wire-tap affair.

"I call on the representatives of the international community to be careful in their behaviour and activities and to remind them that they might be misinterpreted," Ivanov said.

European Council President Donald Tusk warned Macedonia on Friday not to let the political crisis risk its ties with the European Union and NATO, which it wants to join.

Macedonia set an early parliamentary election for June 5 on Friday, as called for by an EU-brokered deal to end the political crisis, although the opposition has said it will boycott the polls.

(Reporting by Kole Casule; editing by Adrian Croft)

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