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PRESIDENT OF MACEDONIA HURT IN CAR-BOMB BLAST

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The president of Macedonia was slightly injured Tuesday when a remote-control car bomb exploded near his passing vehicle.

President Kiro Gligorov's driver was killed, and his security officer and three pedestrians were injured in the assassination attempt, police said. One of the pedestrians was in critical condition.Hospital sources said the 78-year-old Gligorov escaped with only minor cuts on his head, and was being kept in the hospital as a precaution.

Police said two suspects in their mid-20s were arrested, but their identities were not known. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

The bomb went off about 100 yards from Gligorov's offices in Skopje, the Macedonian capital. The president's route to his office is well known, and the car often slows at the point where the bomb exploded because of heavy traffic.

Macedonia is a southern Balkan republic of 2 million people that seceded peacefully as the old Yugoslav federation broke up. But independence has aggravated the volatility in the republic, which has a large ethnic Albanian minority, and historically has had uneasy relations with neighboring Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania.

Local media speculated the bomb might be the work of Macedonian nationalists who would oppose compromises with the republic's neighbors.

Gligorov, was a leading Communist official in the former Yugoslavia. He was elected Macedonia's president in 1992.

He had returned from a one-day trip to Belgrade on Monday, where he talked with President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia about mutual recognition.