Macedonia ministers resign amid phone-tapping scandal

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Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola GruevskiImage source, AP
Image caption,
Prime Minister Gruevski is at the centre of a political storm

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has accepted the resignation of two ministers and his intelligence head amid a surveillance scandal.

Opposition leaders say intelligence chief Saso Mijalkov and Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska led government attempts to control the press, judiciary and electoral officials by tapping their phones.

The government denies the allegations.

Clashes also erupted between ethnic Albanians and police at the weekend.

Fourteen ethnic Albanians and eight police officers were killed in fighting that followed a police raid on an ethnic Albanian neighbourhood in the northern town of Kumanovo.

Political crisis

Conservative leader Mr Gruevski did not give a reason for the resignations of Interior Minister Ms Jankulovska, Transport Minister Mile Janakieski or intelligence chief Mr Mijalkov, who is also his cousin.

Mr Mijalkov, in a resignation letter, said he hoped his departure would "help in overcoming the political crisis imposed by the opposition".

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The Macedonian government has faced protests in recent weeks

Western diplomats say the government's failure to investigate the surveillance scandal casts "serious doubts" on the government's commitment to democratic values.

Macedonia, which is a candidate for European Union membership, is facing increasing unrest.

The opposition and government have accused each other of deliberately destabilising the country.

Since February, opposition leader Zoran Zaev has been releasing leaked recordings, amid concerns about the government's apparently authoritarian leanings.

Anti-government protests broke out last week after leaked conversations allegedly revealed that important details in a 2011 murder case had been covered up.

Demonstrators say they will take to the streets on Sunday to demand the prime minister's resignation.