NEWS

Name talks resume

The Macedonia name issue is expected to return to the top of the political agenda today as United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz will hold talks in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) before coming to Athens in search of a solution to the dispute. Diplomatic sources in Athens have said they are not expecting this round of visits by Nimetz to lead to any breakthrough and that it is simply likely to serve as a confirmation that negotiations are still alive after Greece decided to veto FYROM’s bid to join NATO earlier this month. FYROM’s leadership, including Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and President Branko Crvenkovski, met yesterday ahead of Nimetz’s visit and issued a statement confirming that the neighboring country wants to take part in the talks. This came after an apparent crack in FYROM’s united front when Gruevski questioned a comment by Nikola Dimitrov, the country’s main negotiator for the name issue, in which he called for the establishment of a cross-party platform to tackle the matter. Gruevski said Dimitrov’s comment was «peculiar, to say the least.» This came as a poll in FYROM suggested that its residents are softening their stance on the possibility of the country changing its constitutional name of Republic of Macedonia. The survey, conducted by the non-governmental Center for Politics and Research, indicated that 60 percent of people questioned in FYROM were against the country changing its name. This represented a decline of 23 percent from last month when 83 percent were opposed to any change. Almost eight in 10 said they were in favor of talks with Greece continuing. Nimetz is due in Athens tomorrow but government sources expect that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will come under pressure over domestic issues during a debate in Parliament today The opposition parties have largely refrained from criticizing the conservatives over their handling of the name issue and it is thought they will stick to domestic policy today so they can renew their battle with the government.