Saturday, February 16, 2008

Doubts trouble some in Europe, as well

WASHINGTON - European countries remain deeply divided on whether to recognize the expected declaration of independence by Kosovo, Greece's foreign minister, Dora Bakoyannis, warned this week.

Greece's foreign minister, Dora Bakoyannis, said some nations fear that the breakaway province could set a dangerous precedent.

Bakoyannis said many countries were still uncomfortable with the precedent that will be set when the autonomous Serbian province, an enclave of ethnic Albanians that US troops defended in a bombing campaign in 1999, declares independence over the strong protests of Serbia and Russia. The province, run by the United Nations since 1999, is expected to officially break with Serbia this weekend.

"We have to evaluate very carefully the situation on the ground and be absolutely sure that it is a unique decision," she said in an interview on Wednesday.

Bakoyannis met yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has urged Serbia, Russia, and the rest of Europe to accept Kosovo's independence.

Bakoyannis also used her trip to Washington to seek support for Greece's last-ditch effort to push neighboring Macedonia to change its name in a way that would distinguish the former Yugoslav republic from Greece's northern province of the same name.

Since Macedonia became an independent nation after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has protested the nation's use of the name, saying that it implies territorial claim on parts of northern Greece.

Greece has threatened to block Macedonia's membership to NATO if the dispute is not resolved.

"I fully understand that a lot of people have a lot of difficulty understanding the whole fuss about a name," Bakoyannis said.

Aides to Bakoyannis said Greece was poised to give a major aid package to Macedonia and other neighbors, if Macedonia would only alter its name. Greece has become more flexible, said a Greek diplomat who asked not to be identified, saying the problem could be resolved by adding one word. New Macedonia, perhaps, he said, or Upper Macedonia.

But the Macadonians "have not moved an inch," he said.

Rice, who met with Macedonia's foreign minister Tuesday, urged both countries to use the United Nations to resolve the dispute

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