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Thousands demonstrate in Geneva against Macedonian crackdown

More than 4,000 ethnic Albanians have taken part in a demonstration in Geneva denouncing the Macedonian government 's bombing of Albanian villages during a crackdown on Albanian militants in the north.

The demonstrators – mostly residents of Switzerland and Germany – also called for equal rights for Albanians in the mainly Slav former Yugoslav republic. “We are not terrorists. We just want equality,” the participants said.

Many of those who took part in the two-hour rally outside the United Nations European headquarters carried placards calling for dialogue, a new Macedonian constitution and an international conference on Macedonia.

Others carried the red flag of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The demonstrators handed over a petition addressed to the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, calling for UN intervention to end the crackdown, which has been going on for 11 days.

The petition also called for international observers to be sent to the region to ensure the protection of Albanian rights. It said ethnic Albanians were being treated as second-class citizens and demanded the creation of two separate ethnic states within Macedonia.

The Macedonian government launched its crackdown following an uprising by an Albanian rebel group known as the National Liberation Army.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR