Canada recognises Macedonia under disputed name

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SKOPJE, Sep 20 (Reuters) Canada has recognised the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia as Macedonia, the name rejected by neighbour Greece for the past 16 years, Macedonia's Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said today.

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, and Athens objects to the use of the name as a sign of territorial ambitions.

''We were informed by the Macedonian embassy that Canada recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name, which is a good thing,'' Gruevski said.

Athens has opposed the name ''Macedonia'' ever since the republic broke away from socialist Yugoslavia in 1991. The neighbours have been involved in United Nations-led talks for a name acceptable to both sides since 1993, with little progress.

''This decision does not please us,'' Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters. Greece's Foreign Minister would contact her Canadian counterpart to ''stress Greece's unwavering position'' on the issue.

At NATO, the European Union and the UN, the country is referred to by the acronym FYROM, ''Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia''.

The United States, Russia, China, and several EU states use the name ''Macedonia'' in their bilateral relations.

Greece, an EU and NATO member, has indicated it might block Macedonia's bid for membership of these organisations if it tries to join under the disputed name. Greece insists the row must be resolved before membership is discussed.

Macedonia has EU candidate status and hopes to be invited to join NATO next year.

A NATO official said it was not clear if this was a trial balloon sent up by Canada, a founding NATO member. The question was whether Athens would change its stance on the issue now the Greek election was over, he added.

''For the allies, this (name dispute) is not a hurdle,'' the official said on condition of anonymity.

''We have found an internal modus vivendi which suits us and which Skopje seems to be happy with. Obviously things could get more challenging as the membership discussion gathers pace ahead of Bucharest (NATO summit in April 2008).'' Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni, whose government won a second term on Sunday, will meet U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz next week to discuss the issue.

Because of the dispute, Macedonia has been seated in the UN General Assembly under ''T'', for ''The'', for the past 14 years.

REUTERS GT BD2115

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