The leaders of Albania and Kosovo vowed to achieve unity for ethnic Albanians in the region during the centennial celebration of Albania's independence in the Macedonian capital Sunday but said it should be "within EU boundaries".
"Through the European Union we are going to realise the project of our national unity," Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha told some 10,000 people in Skopje.
Berisha insisted that states bordering Albania should not fear this unity.
"I urge all the neighbours to understand that the national unity of Albanians is nothing wrong," he said, cheered by a crowd chanting "Great Albania" and waving Albanian red flags.
His words were echoed by Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci, who said that Albanians in the region, including the minorities in Serbia and Macedonia, were "stronger than ever and should work together."
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No incidents were reported during the celebration, which has heightened tensions in Macedonia, prompting police to step up security and Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska to appeal for calm amid fears of possible inter-ethnic violence.
Several incidents had been reported in recent days, with youths setting ablaze the flags of rival communities in Skopje and the Albanian-dominated northwestern town of Tetovo.
A leader of Macedonia's ethnic Albanians and former guerilla leader-turned-politician, Ali Ahmeti, whose party organised Sunday's celebration, also called for respect because "a nation that seeks its rights can not disrespect the rights of others."