Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday dug in his heels over the Macedonia name dispute, stressing that Athens will not hesitate to block Skopje from joining NATO unless the disagreement is resolved. «Greece’s stance is very clear as regards Skopje and we have clarified it absolutely to allies ad partners,» Karamanlis said. «I do not feel that I am under pressure from anyone,» he added, apparently dismissing speculation regarding US attempts to influence Greek policy in this area. But there was pressure on Karamanlis at home. Thousands of Greeks rallied in the northern city of Thessaloniki yesterday evening, urging the government not to accept a name for the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that could lead to territorial claims on Greece’s northern region of Macedonia. The main rally in Thessaloniki, a street protest organized by the far-right LAOS, was not attended by politicians from other parties. Thessaloniki’s Bishop Anthimos led a separate rally in a local sports stadium. The United Nations envoy entrusted with solving the name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, arrived in the northern city last night to brief Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis following his talks with political leaders in Skopje. Nimetz said the talks had failed to make any headway but delivered an upbeat assessment nonetheless. «I got a lot of encouragement to keep at this task,» Nimetz said. «There is a great interest here to solve this problem,» he added. Meanwhile, European Union and NATO officials both appeared to nudge Skopje over the name issue. «If we can’t settle this issue, I’m afraid it will have negative ramifications (for EU accession),» the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said. And NATO representative James Appathurai remarked: «Greece has made it clear that it wants to find a solution and that it will participate in talks with an open mind – we hope Skopje’s government does the same.» Sources told Kathimerini yesterday that US President George W. Bush may drop Skopje from the itinerary of his scheduled tour of Balkan states next month. According to the original plan, Bush was to visit Zagreb, Tirana and Skopje following a NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4.