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The Latest: Police say 77 injured in Macedonia clashes

Associated Press logo Associated Press 27/04/2017
Police try to block protestors as they enter into the parliament building in Skopje, Macedonia, Thursday, April 27, 2017. Scores of protesters have broken through a police cordon and entered Macedonian parliament to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski) © The Associated Press Police try to block protestors as they enter into the parliament building in Skopje, Macedonia, Thursday, April 27, 2017. Scores of protesters have broken through a police cordon and entered Macedonian parliament to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

SKOPJE, Macedonia — The latest on the political crisis in Macedonia (all times local):

1:45 a.m.

Authorities in Macedonia say 77 people have been injured in the clashes inside and outside the country's parliament building.

The injured included 22 police officers and three lawmakers who were attacked when dozens of protesters pushed through a police cordon and stormed into parliament.

The demonstrators were angry over Thursday's election by lawmakers of a new parliament speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

The leader of Macedonia's opposition Social Democrat party leader was one of those attacked and he has been greeted by hundreds of supporters. Zoran Zaev and several other lawmakers from his party appeared outside the Social Democratic headquarters in the capital several hours after the attack.

In a statement , the party accuses rival conservatives of inciting the violence and causing "hatred and division" among Macedonians.

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1 a.m.

Greece's Foreign Ministry says it is concerned that neighboring Macedonia may be "sliding into deep political crisis" following attacks on politicians by protesters who swarmed into parliament.

A ministry statement issued late Thursday expresses "sadness and concern" at the assault on parliament and calls on Macedonia's political rivals to show a "spirit of compromise and collaboration."

Without it, the ministry says, "impasses can lead to explosive situations."

Demonstrators rushed into the parliament building and assaulted several lawmakers following a controversial vote to elect a new parliament speaker.

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11 p.m.

Police in Macedonia's capital have fired flash grenades and clashed with protesters gathered in front of the country's parliament, leaving several people injured.

The confrontation came several hours after demonstrators rushed into the parliament building and assaulted several lawmakers following a controversial vote to elect a new parliament speaker.

Police officers inside the building had appeared to be overwhelmed by the protesters, who broke through a cordon and a refused to leave.

Several hundred protesters remain outside the building. Authorities did not immediately confirm local television reports that more than a dozen people had been hurt, including protesters and police officers.

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10:50 p.m.

The U.S. Embassy in Macedonia has condemned the violence in the country's parliament, after scores of protesters stormed the building and attacked lawmakers.

The Embassy said in a statement Thursday night said the assault "is not consistent with democracy and is not an acceptable way to resolve differences."

Protesters stormed parliament following disagreements over the election of a parliament speaker, an issue which had left lawmakers deadlocked for weeks.

The embassy statement said a majority of lawmakers elected Talat Xhaferi, a lawmaker from an ethnic Albanian party, as parliament speaker.

The U.S. Embassy says it is ready to work with Xhaferi "to support democracy and to advance the interests of Macedonia."

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10:43 p.m.

Macedonia's president has called for calm in a televised address made after violent protesters stormed into parliament.

In a brief statement, President Gjorge Ivanov said he had summoned the leaders of the country's main political parties for a meeting on Friday.

Ivanov says he is appealing "for reasonable and responsible behavior."

He says: "Lawmakers are primarily responsible for restoring the situation in accordance to the Constitution and laws, which were violated today."

Scores of protesters in the capital broke through a police cordon and rushed into parliament on Thursday to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government.

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9:55 p.m.

The violent protest inside Macedonia's parliament building has caused concern in neighboring Albania.

The country's foreign ministry says it is monitoring "the escalation of the situation in Macedonia with great concern."

In a statement issued Thursday, the ministry said: "Such scenes of violence against the elected representatives of the Macedonian people are unacceptable."

One-fourth of Macedonia's population is ethnic Albanian, and coalition talks to form a new government broke down over ethnic Albanian demands that Albanian be recognized as an official second language.

Albania's government called on "political leaders to show restraint and avoid rhetoric that could further escalate the tense situation."

Authorities in Kosovo also expressed concern.

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9:07 p.m.

A Macedonian opposition leader was among the lawmakers attacked when protesters stormed the country's parliament building.

Photographs broadcast on local television showed blood on Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev's face.

A spokesman for an ethnic Albanian party, Artan Grubi of the Democratic Union for Integration party, says Zaev and at least three other lawmakers were injured during the attack on Thursday night.

He says the violence marks "a sad day for Macedonia."

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8:43 p.m.

A senior European Union official has condemned the violent protests inside Macedonia's parliament.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a tweet on Thursday that "Violence has NO place in Parliament. Democracy must run its course."

Sweden's ambassador to Macedonia, Mats Staffansson, speaking on behalf of other European diplomats, reminded the country's politicians of the need for dialogue and said "it is the responsibility of the police of this country to make sure that this kind of violence does not happen."

Their remarks came after scores of protesters in the capital broke through a police cordon and rushed into parliament to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government.

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8:20 p.m.

Scores of protesters in Macedonia have broken through a police cordon and entered parliament to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government.

The protesters pushed their way past police and attacked lawmakers late Thursday, after the country's Social Democrats and parties representing Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority voted for a new speaker.

Macedonia has been without a government since December, with the long-governing conservative and rival Social Democrats split over whether to consider ethnic minority party demands to make Albanian an official second language throughout the country.

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7:30 p.m.

Macedonian opposition leader has called for an end to a political deadlock that has left parliament unable to elect a speaker for three weeks.

Zoran Zaev suggested a new speaker could be elected outside normal procedures, an idea immediately rejected by the conservative party as an attempted coup.

Macedonia has been without a government since December, when former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative party won elections, but without enough votes to form a government. Coalition talks broke down over ethnic Albanian demands that Albanian be recognized as an official second language. A quarter of Macedonia's population is ethnic Albanian.

Zaev secured the cooperation of another ethnic Albanian party, giving him 69 of parliament's 120 seats. But President Gjorge Ivanov refused to hand him the mandate to form a government.

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