Sunday, November 04, 2007

Macedonia to send more troops to Iraq

he Macedonian government has decided to send additional 36 soldiers to Iraq, bringing the country's troops on the ground to 80, news reaching here from Skopje reported on Friday.

"The decision reaffirms that Macedonia is a growing exporter of stability. As an NATO aspirant, we are pleased to show our solidarity with our Alliance partners," said Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki.

The decision will come into force after it is approved by parliament, where the government enjoys a firm majority. Macedonia also participates in the NATO-led International Security Force mission in Afghanistan, and the EU's peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

Macedonia is hoping to receive invitation to join NATO, along with Albania and Croatia next spring when the alliance holds its summit in Bucharest, capital of Romania.

However, its southern neighbor Greece has repeatedly threatened to veto Macedonia's NATO membership if a solution can't be found to the name dispute between the two countries by then.

Milososki reaffirmed his country's stand that there should not be linkage between Macedonia's NATO membership and its name dispute with Greece, hoping that Greece should put more attention to regional stability.

Greece has been opposed to the name of the Republic of Macedonia since the country broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece says the name of Macedonia implies a claim the tiny western Balkan country on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and could destabilize the region.

Instead, it asks Macedonia to use the name of "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" or FYROM in short, under which the country joined the U.N. in 1993.

A fresh round of U.N. mediated Greek-Macedonian talks over the name dispute were held in New York on Thursday, and U.N. mediator Matthew Nimitz has offered fresh ideas but no ultimate answer for solving the name issue between the two countries.

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