Friday, April 04, 2008

Rice: Macedonia Not to be Blamed

Macedonia and its people are not responsible for the country's failure to receive an invitation to join NATO, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told media in Bucharest late on Thursday.

Rice said she hoped that Macedonia would join the Alliance “as soon as possible” and she stressed that all the NATO members meeting at the Bucharest summit had agreed that the country has met the membership criteria.

“Macedonia is in fact invited to join the Alliance as soon as the 'name' issue is resolved,” Rice said.

Skopje's bid failed because of Greek opposition, despite the fact that all the other member countries agreed that Macedonia had met all of NATO’s requirements.

Greece exercised its veto because it objects to the name Republic of Macedonia, which Athens believes may imply a claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Rice told reporters that the US and other countries pressed for Macedonia’s invitation at the summit but that their freedom of action was constrained by the fact that NATO functions on the nbasis of consensus.

Croatia and Albania, however, got the green light to join the Alliance.

On Thursday NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced that Macedonia's bid to join the Alliance had been unsuccessful. Immediately afterwards, the country’s leaders, together with many Macedonian journalists, left the summit early in a sign of protest.

“We have been punished because of who we are and not because of what we have done,” Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told reporters on Thursday.

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