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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Nato mission complicates Greek tensions
Macedonian boy
Macedonians want to foster a sense of national identity
By Nick Thorpe in Skopje

The multinational Nato peace-keeping operation in Macedonia is also having an impact on relations between countries in the whole of south-eastern Europe.

In particular, there have been intense political contacts between Macedonia and Greece over the deployment of a large Greek military contingent within the Nato operation, and the continuing dispute over the use of the name Macedonia.

For many Macedonians the sight of the blue and white Greek flag on the back of military vehicles and flying prominently from the Greek battle group headquarters near Skopje is not an entirely welcome one.

Greek soldiers arm badge
An unwelcome sight for many Macedonians
Macedonia has been locked in dispute with Greece since independence in 1992 over its claim to the name of Macedonia.

Greece insists that Macedonia continue to be called FYROM - the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia - to rule out any implied desire to create Greater Macedonia, including what is now the northern Greek province of the same name.

Click here to see a map of the area

An interim agreement between the two countries in 1996 allowed trade and diplomatic representation to resume.

But the talks on the name issue, under the auspices of the United Nations, appear to be making little progress.

Simple gesture

Greece is sending 450 troops to Macedonia to help coolect weapons from the ethnic Albanian rebels. The weapons collected will also be transported to Greece for destruction.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Macedonian counterpart Ilinka Mitreva
Macedonia's Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva met her Greek counterpart on Thursday

But many Macedonians feel Greece could help far more with just a simple gesture - the recognition of their name.

They argue that this would help Macedonia's own sense of security, which in turn would encourage the population to accept the need for lasting concessions to their Albanian minority.

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See also:

23 Aug 01 | Europe
Nato brings hope to Macedonia
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Is Nato's mission impossible?
17 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia mission 'too short'
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