Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Name game blame

Macedonia’s foreign minister noted that his country is a “reliable partner” of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq and is working hard to join NATO and the European Union.

His Balkan nation is reforming tax laws to attract more foreign investment and helping neighboring countries with difficult diplomatic issues, such as the future of Kosovo.

“We have gone from a security consumer to a security provider,” Antonio Milososki said on a visit this week to The Washington Times, referring to his country’s transition since independence in 1991 after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Still, Macedonia labors under what he called a “very stupid designation” as “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) because of Greek objections over its name.

Greece insists that the name “Macedonia” should apply only to a northern Greek province. Athens also is concerned that the use of the name by its Balkan neighbor represents a threat to Greek heritage.

Nearly 120 countries — including the United States, China and Russia — recognize the nation by the name it calls itself, the Republic of Macedonia, but the United Nations, the European Union and NATO still refer to it as FYROM.

“At the U.N., we sit next to Turkey because our name begins with ‘the,’ ” Mr. Milososki said.

He added that some Greek politicians now realize they face a conundrum over the name issue, adopted under the former ruling party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement.

“Modern Greek politicians are sort of hostage to the earlier party,” Mr. Milososki said, referring to members of the current government of the conservative New Democracy party.

Mr. Milososki said Greek business executives who do business in Macedonia never use the term FYROM.

“Our name is the cornerstone of our identity,” he said. “It is a basic right of all nations to use the name it has chosen.”

Mr. Milososki, who met yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and congressional leaders, said his Washington visit is designed to highlight Macedonia’s contribution to security concerns in the Balkans and other regions and to promote stronger trade relations with the United States.

Macedonia has 130 troops in Afghanistan, providing medical services and guarding NATO headquarters in Kabul, and about 40 combat troops in Iraq. Also, more than 350 Macedonian officers have received military training in the United States.

“For us, it is important that we should be seen as a reliable partner,” he said.

Mr. Milososki said his government is advising both Kosovo and Serbia about the future of the ethnic-Albanian province that erupted into violence between Serbian forces and Kosovo separatists in the 1990s.

Although Macedonia’s population of about 2 million is 25 percent ethnic Albanian, Mr. Milososki said, he has no fears of Albanian extremists agitating for a “Greater Albania,” as Slobodan Milosevic did in his quest for a “Greater Serbia.”

“A ‘Greater Serbia’ and a ‘Greater Albania’ are twins,” Mr. Milososki said. “A ‘Greater Serbia’ was lesson enough.”

Justice delayed

The U.S. ambassador to Russia yesterday urged Moscow to find the killers of American journalist Paul Klebnikov, who was killed three years ago.

“It’s obviously important in the view of the U.S. government that this investigation be pursued vigorously and concluded successfully and that those responsible be brought to justice,” Ambassador William Burns told reporters after attending a memorial service on the anniversary of the death of the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.

Two Chechen separatists were charged but acquitted last year. The Supreme Court ordered them retried, but the legal proceedings were suspended in March when one defendant fled.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@

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