40 000 Rally against Macedonian government

SKOPJE, May 19, 2000 -- (Reuters) Over 40,000 opposition supporters packed Skopje's main square on Thursday to demand early parliamentary elections and resignations of Macedonian government officials, accusing them of corruption.

The rally was organized by the Social Democratic Alliance (SDSM), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Democratic Alliance (DS) and backed by several smaller parties.

SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister for seven years until his election defeat in November 1998, said the present government had lost credibility.

"The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is not approving loans for Macedonia because the international financial institutions do not believe in this government, which has fulfilled nothing that it has promised," Crvenkovski said.

"Is (Prime Minister Ljubco) Georgievski hearing the warnings coming from Washington and Brussels that the government is corrupt and that this country could be ruled by the Mafia," he asked.

Macedonia must carry out reforms and sell its largest loss-making companies in order to receive World Bank and IMF loans. World Bank and IMF representatives are expected to arrive in Macedonia in mid-June to continue negotiations for the loans.

"The number of unemployed is now over 100,000, and all that we have built through generations, they are now selling off - the OKTA refinery, Sugar Factory, Porcelanka (porcelain factory), Stopanska Bank and the Insurance Company ZOIL," Crvenkovski said.

He said the government also planned to sell the Telecom, Feni nickel plant and marble industry.

The opposition parties said they would hold protests once a week over the next 45 days in different towns in Macedonia.

"We want early parliamentary elections... Macedonia has become a field of criminal activity, we want resignations," said Liberal Democratic Party leader and mayor of Skopje Risto Penov.

"They (the government) promised billions, they promised three industrial zones... but the number of unemployed, taxes, electricity and oil prices are increasing, and they are selling Macedonian companies under suspicious circumstances," he added.

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