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Albania says could block Macedonia's NATO bid amid spat over minority rights

  • Albanian prime minister Edi Rama speaks at a U.S.-sponsored anti-terrorism regional meeting in Albania's capital Tirana, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Rama warned Macedonia it cannot join the NATO family unless it respects the democratic rights of its ethnic Albanian minority, considering “unacceptable” how Macedonian authorities linked a recent gunbattle between police and a group of armed ethnic Albanian men as a terrorist act from the latter. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Albanian prime minister Edi Rama speaks at a U.S.-sponsored anti-terrorism regional meeting in Albania's capital Tirana, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Rama warned Macedonia it cannot join the NATO family unless it respects the democratic rights of its ethnic Albanian minority, considering “unacceptable” how Macedonian authorities linked a recent gunbattle between police and a group of armed ethnic Albanian men as a terrorist act from the latter. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

  • Macedonian deputy Interior Minsiter Zemri Qamili takes part at a U.S.-sponsored anti-terrorism regional meeting in Albania's capital Tirana, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Macedonia it cannot join the NATO family unless it respects the democratic rights of its ethnic Albanian minority, considering “unacceptable” how Macedonian authorities linked a recent gunbattle between police and a group of armed ethnic Albanian men as a terrorist act from the latter. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Macedonian deputy Interior Minsiter Zemri Qamili takes part at a U.S.-sponsored anti-terrorism regional meeting in Albania's capital Tirana, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Macedonia it cannot join the NATO family unless it respects the democratic rights of its ethnic Albanian minority, considering “unacceptable” how Macedonian authorities linked a recent gunbattle between police and a group of armed ethnic Albanian men as a terrorist act from the latter. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has warned that his country could block Macedonia's bid to join NATO unless it improves its record on respecting the rights of the country's ethnic Albanian minority.

The tiny republic's accession has already been blocked by neighbor Greece because of a dispute over the republic's name.

Rama gave the warning Wednesday while speaking an anti-terrorism conference in the capital Tirana. Relations between to the two Balkan neighbors have further soured following a shootout in northern Macedonia this month between police and suspected ethnic Albanian militants that left eight officers and 10 others dead.

Macedonia, in one of its deepest political crises since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, has a sizeable ethnic Albanian minority which has been decisive in forming governing coalitions.