Fresh US pressure over name

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday reiterated Washington’s conviction that the Macedonia name issue should not obstruct Skopje’s bid to join NATO, as a United Nations mediator entrusted with resolving the name spat heralded a new round of talks. «The hope is that the name issue can be resolved very quickly now,» Rice commented in Washington, without elaborating. She added that the dispute between Athens and Skopje over FYROM’s constitutional name «should not get in the way of the admission of Macedonia to NATO.» Greek diplomats yesterday interpreted Rice’s sudden push on the name issue as a last-ditch attempt by Washington to bring FYROM into the NATO fold before US President George W. Bush bows out of office in the fall. Also, following its support for Georgia in the recent conflict with Russian forces, Washington may want to send out a message to other countries in the region that it is willing to support them if they come under its wing, the same diplomats said. The fresh pressure from Washington comes as UN mediator for the Macedonia name dispute Matthew Nimetz calls a new round of talks. Nimetz, who met with representatives from Skopje and Athens last week, is next week due to visit both capitals to push for a breakthrough. Sources say that new name proposals are likely to be laid on the table. A series of alternative names for FYROM proposed by Nimetz over the past few months – including compound titles featuring words such as Upper and New – have been rejected outright by Skopje, though Athens has insisted that any new name should include a geographical qualifier. Meanwhile in a related development, media in FYROM report that residents planning to spend their holidays in Greece are being mistreated by the country’s border authorities who are subjecting them to excessively long inspections and delays.