Blast rocks center of Macedonian town

SKOPJE, Feb 3, 2000 -- (Reuters) A bomb exploded yards (meters) away from the local courthouse in Kumanovo town in northern Macedonia on Wednesday, A-1 television reported in Skopje.

No casualties were reported. Police cordoned off roads leading to the scene and were keeping reporters away.

The blast, close to a police station, coincided with intensive police searches in Kumanovo and surrounding villages.

The searches follow the killing of three policemen outside the mainly ethnic-Albanian town of Aracinovo, near Skopje, on January 11.

Macedonia, swamped by ethnic Albanian refugees from neighboring Kosovo during NATO's air war against Yugoslavia last year, has its own large Albanian majority - but nothing like the inter-ethnic tension which developed in Kosovo.

Macedonia's Albanians hold a third of ministerial posts in the government, including the Justice Ministry.