Macedonian president withholds mandate from opposition chief

Macedonia's president is withholding the mandate to form a government from the runner-up in December's elections, accusing left-wing leader Zoran Zaev of jeopardizing the country's sovereignty.

Gjorge Ivanov took issue with the demand of Zaev's potential coalition partners, minority ethnic Albanian parties, to make Albanian Macedonia's second official language.

The president said Wednesday he would not give the mandate to "a person or party whose program advocates the destruction of (Macedonia's) sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence."

Zaev's Social Democrats want to govern with three ethnic Albanian parties, who insist on the language designation.

That demand put paid to efforts to form a coalition under former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, whose conservatives topped December's election but fell short of a majority.

Ethnic Albanians comprise a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.