PM mild but firm on FYROM

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday called on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to show good will as a neighboring country but refrained from insisting that an ongoing dispute over the country’s official name be resolved before FYROM joins NATO. Speaking on his way to Australia, Karamanlis called on FYROM to abandon stances «which do not respect the rules of good-neighborly relations.» «This is the only way for Skopje to follow a smooth Euroatlantic course,» he said. The premier’s comments came in the wake of speculation about early elections being called in September over fears that the United Nations may stop mediating between Greece and FYROM in the issue of the latter’s name. Neither Karamanlis nor Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who is accompanying the PM on his official trip to New Zealand and Australia, commented on the election date yesterday. However diplomatic sources told Kathimerini that Skopje is likely to persist with its intransigent stance. «Even if Greece decides to exercise its veto and block Skopje’s entry to NATO, it will probably find itself alone in this process and Skopje will toughen its stance,» a diplomat said. A scheduled meeting in Tirana on June 10 between US President George Bush and the prime ministers of Albania, FYROM and Croatia is expected to reinforce Skopje’s obstinacy on the matter of its name. The issue is expected to be high on the agenda when US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns visits Athens next month. Karamanlis yesterday began a weeklong visit to Australia, the first by a Greek premier. In New Zealand, Karamanlis was praised for agreeing to join the anti-whaling lobby of the International Whaling Commission.