PRISTINA, Serbia (AP) - Kosovo's prime minister appealed Tuesday to ethnic Albanian political parties in neighboring Macedonia to refrain from violence that has marred the campaigning ahead of elections in the Balkan country.
Agim Ceku said violence in the past week threatened to "deeply damage not only the good image that Macedonia has built, but also the legitimacy of the (ethnic) Albanian political class in the country."
"They become an obstacle in the country's path to integration" into European Union and NATO, Ceku said in a statement.
He also called upon Kosovo's citizens to stay away from Macedonia's internal affairs a day after Macedonia's Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski discussed the violence by telephone with him and opposition leader Hashim Thaci, asking them to condemn the recent incidents and urge Macedonia's ethnic Albanian leaders to rein in their supporters.
Thaci issued a similar appeal Monday.
In his statement, Ceku said that by behaving responsibly, ethnic Albanian leaders in Macedonia would contribute toward resolving Kosovo's disputed status, which is the subject of U.N.-brokered negotiations, which aim to conclude by the year-end.
More than two dozen violent incidents have been reported since the election campaign began in mid-June in Macedonia, mostly between supporters of rival ethnic Albanian parties.
The July 5 elections in Macedonia are seen as a test for the country of 2 million, held five years after ethnic conflict threatened to develop into civil war between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, who make up nearly the third of the population.
NATO and European Union officials have warned that fair elections are crucial to Macedonian hopes of joining the military alliance and the 25-member bloc.
The alliance warned Macedonia's political parties Tuesday to contain the pre-election violence or risk delays in the Balkan country's ambitions to join the military alliance.