UNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 (Reuters) The new president of the United Nations General Assembly sparked a dispute with Greece today by referring to his home country, Macedonia, by its self-given name, which Greece rejects.
Srgjan Kerim called the Balkan country's head of state, Branko Crvenkovski, as president of the Republic of Macedonia when he came to the rostrum to address world leaders, prompting an immediate protest from the Greek ambassador in the chamber.
Greece objected to the name when Macedonia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, contending that it implied claims on the northern Greek province of the same name.
The country was provisionally recognized by all but a handful of nations as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, often abbreviated to FYROM. It is seated in the United Nations alphabetically between Thailand and Togo.
''I would therefore request, Mr President, that the proper name -- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- be used for all purposes within the United Nations,'' Greek ambassador John Mourikis told the General Assembly.
Kerim said he was aware of the facts, but: ''At the same time, as president of the General Assembly, I am due to show full respect to the dignity of every single member state of the United Nations, including my own.'' Crvenkovski concluded his speech defiantly by saying his country was and would remain the Republic of Macedonia.
A Greek Foreign Ministry statement said Kerim had acted on instructions from his government and ''irreparably damaged for the duration of his term his standing and credibility as president of the General Assembly''.
Reuters KK VP0108