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Postby brother » Thu Nov 04, 2004 6:31 pm

Greece protests US recognition of "Republic of Macedonia"
AFP: 11/4/2004

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece sharply protested a US decision to recognize the former Yugoslav state on its northern border as "Macedonia", the same name as a northern Greek province where Alexander the Great was born.

Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis summoned the US ambassador Thomas Miller to register Athens' protest on Thursday, a few hours before US officials publicly confirmed the change.

"I pointed out to the US ambassador the multiple, negative repercussions that this unilateral decision by the American government will have," Molyviatis told reporters. He also cancelled a trip to an EU summit in Brussels Thursday.

In Washington, an official confirmed that the United States this week recognized the "Republic of Macedonia" as the name of what has been provisionally known as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM).

Greece has long contested Skopje's use of "Macedonia" on grounds that it carries territorial claims on its northern province.

The US statement said the name change was to reward Skopje for its commitment to multi-ethnic democracy.

This was seen here as support for a criticial referendum Sunday in which Macedonians vote on EU and US-supported legislation to empower the country's ethnic-Albanian minority, amid fears of a return to ethnic clashes in the former Yugoslav republic.

Macedonia's nationalist opposition party has spearheaded the plebiscite that aims to change municipal boundaries to give more electoral power to the restive Albanian minority and elevate Albanian to a second official language. Critics however fear it marks a step toward ethnic-based federalisation.

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski hailed Washington's decision as a "victory".

"This is a great day for Macedonia," he said. "This is a victory that the United States has recognised Macedonia under her constitutional name."

Athens insists the name "Macedonia" is part of Greek heritage and objects to it being used by the former Yugoslav republic, which gained independence in 1991.

It also fears the US initiative could now spark a wave of recognitions by other states.

The European Union however quickly said it was not planning to follow the US move, the EU's Dutch presidency said in Brussels.

The German parliament last month urged Berlin to recognize the constitutional name of Macedonia but Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday rejected the change.

Schroeder urged Athens and Skopje to continue negotiations on the issue, which have dragged on without progress at the United Nations for nine years.

After the break-up of the old Yugoslav federation in 1991, EU member Greece staged an international campaign against Macedonia's recognition under its constitutional name.

In 1993, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under the provisional name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM).

But a determined Athens imposed a trade embargo on FYROM from February 1994 and September 1995, prompting accusations it was trying to destabilize the small, land-locked repulblic.

The embargo was lifted under a bilateral agreement that started the talks at the UN, and in 1996 Athens and Skopje opened diplomatic liaison offices that have led to closer ties, particularly in the economic and trade sectors. Greece is today one of the biggest investors in the former Yugoslav republic.

An analyst meanwhile warned Washington's move could affect relations with Greece, which is to assume a non-permanent, two-year seat on the UN Security Council in January.

"It was not a smart move," Thanos Veremis, the head of state-sponsored Greek foreign policy think tank ELIAMEP, told AFP.

According to Veremis, Washington's inititive will also make it harder for Athens to win Greek popular support for Turkey's entry to the European Union -- a key foreign policy objective of Washington.

11/04/2004 - 15:35 GMT - AFP

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