Washington Overrules Greece, Recognizes Macedonia

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Washington Overrules Greece, Recognizes Macedonia
« em: Novembro 05, 2004, 08:23:53 am »

Washington Overrules Greece, Recognizes Macedonia

Thu Nov 4, 5:10 PM ET   World - Reuters

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE (Reuters) - The United States has recognized the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia as "Macedonia," the name strongly rejected by neighbor Greece for the past 13 years, President Branko Crvenkovski said on Thursday.

It was Washington's first significant policy move following the re-election of President Bush (news - web sites) on Wednesday.

U.S. officials said it was intended to reward Macedonia and undermine a nationalist-inspired referendum on Sunday which could reduce the rights of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority.

The recognition caused jubilation in Macedonia, an ally of the Americans in the Iraq (news - web sites) military coalition, but outrage in Greece, a NATO (news - web sites) member, where the news came out of the blue.

"Today is a great day for Macedonia and all Macedonians wherever they are," Crvenkovski said on national television. He assured Greeks Macedonia was determined to build friendly ties.

In Athens, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis called in the U.S. ambassador to make a formal protest. It would have "many negative effects," Molyviatis said, without elaborating.

The name is one of the most emotive foreign policy issues in Greece. Macedonia is also the name of Greece's northern province, birthplace of Alexander the Great.

The two neighbors have been involved in U.N.-led talks for a name acceptable to both sides since 1993.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the decision was taken "without prejudice" to the talks.

Athens opposed the name "Macedonia" ever since the republic broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991. Until now Greece had the support of nearly all NATO allies for refusing recognition. At NATO, the EU and the United Nations (news - web sites) it is referred to by the acronym FYROM, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

Macedonians are Slav people whose language is similar to that of Bulgaria, but who also claim descent from Alexander the Great, the Greek conqueror and 'King of Macedonians'.


Bordered to the north by Kosovo, Macedonia came close to civil war in 2001 during seven months of conflict between state security forces and an Albanian guerrilla army.

The U.S. nod to nationhood could deflate support for the nationalist-inspired referendum on Sunday to overturn a law giving Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority more rights. The law is part of the Ohrid peace accord which ended the fighting.

Macedonian nationalists say the law threatens to break up the country. But Brussels and Washington say it furthers multi-ethnic peace.

A senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named, suggested the timing of the decision aimed to influence the referendum.

"If you're going to express your support for the path that the Macedonian government has chosen, it's a good time to express it before a referendum that could potentially undercut that path," the State Department official told reporters in Washington.


Prime Minister Hari Kostov told Dutch financial daily NRC Handelsblad Macedonia would be internationally isolated if the referendum succeeded.

"Not only will my government then step down, but the country will again be isolated," he was quoted as saying.

The State Department's Casey said the decision also rewarded Macedonia's commitment to the Ohrid accord.

"Macedonia's leadership made a courageous decision to carry through with decentralization mandated by the agreement. We want to support efforts to that end as part of our overall support for Macedonia moving closer to Europe and to NATO and to EU membership," Casey told a briefing in Washington.

A Greek government spokesman, George Koumoutsakos, indicated EU member Athens might be prepared to block Macedonia's membership of the EU under the disputed name, when a report on its EU bid is issued in the first half of 2005.

"The developments of the past hours will be taken into account on that date," he said. "This is not a happy moment."

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis would contact all EU leaders and Greece would also take action at the United Nations where it is on the Security Council, the spokesman said.

He said Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) telephoned Athens to say it was "not a turn against Greece."

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Athens, Shaban Buza in Pristina, Arshad Mohammad in Washington)
"[Os portugueses são]um povo tão dócil e tão bem amestrado que até merecia estar no Jardim Zoológico"
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