- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

Formally Macedonia

The ambassador of Macedonia was delighted yesterday after he learned the United States decided to recognize his country by the name it calls itself instead of the cumbersome acronym, FYROM.

The Greek Embassy, however, expressed the outrage of its government, which claims the name, Macedonia, as part of its heritage and as the name of a province in northern Greece.

“It’s a great day,” said Macedonian Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov, whose country was previously referred to in Washington as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

“We regard this decision as a message of support for Macedonia’s policies, statehood and stability.”

Greece has objected to its northern neighbor’s use of Macedonia as its name since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece associates the name with its cultural heritage going back to Alexander the Great, who also was called the “King of the Macedonians.”

Greece was also angered because it apparently had no warning of the U.S. decision, which was first announced by Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski.

In Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis complained to U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller, warning that the American decision will have “multiple negative consequences.” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell later telephoned to “assure him that the decision is not a turn against Greece and is not linked to the U.S. elections,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The United Nations, where the country is still called FYROM, has been mediating talks between Greece and Macedonia to find a mutually acceptable name.

Mr. Dimitrov said about 100 nations, including China, Russia and Turkey, already recognized his country as the Republic of Macedonia.

“We deserve a permanent name for a permanent country, not a provisional name,” he said. “To say you support that country’s name is to say you support that country’s future.”

Some observers said the U.S. decision could help the government defeat a referendum scheduled for Sunday that would repeal certain civil rights granted to Macedonia’s ethnic-Albanian minority. The granting of rights helped end ethnic strife in 2001 that threatened to throw the country into a civil war.

It also is seen as a U.S. reward for Macedonia’s military support in Iraq.

Envoy stepping down

The U.S. ambassador to Australia, a longtime political ally of President Bush, said yesterday he planned to resign from his position early next year and dismissed complaints from opposition politicians that he interfered in domestic affairs.

“I’ve told the president that if he wanted me to do something else in the administration, I would be glad to think about that,” Ambassador Thomas Schieffer told reporters in Sydney.

“But I thought it was best if somebody else served a second term down here. I’ve been here almost 3½ years now, and it’s been pretty intense.”

The opposition Australian Labor Party has complained that Mr. Schieffer meddled in domestic political affairs in last month’s election by criticizing Labor plans to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq. Conservative Prime Minister John Howard won re-election and is sticking by his policy of military support of the U.S.-led coalition.

Mr. Schieffer said he was just doing his job as ambassador when he criticized Labor’s position, Agence France-Presse reported.

“It is important for the American ambassador, wherever he or she is in the world, to be an advocate for American foreign policy,” he said. “Because you are an advocate, you have to expect that some people are not going to agree with what you advocate.”

Mr. Schieffer, a former Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, was a business partner with Mr. Bush, when he owned the Texas Rangers baseball team.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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