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Macedonian President Says Macedonia 'Cannot' Relinquish Name

By Omer Karabeg

Skopje, Macedonia; April 8 (RFE/RL) -Macedonian president Kiro Gligorov says that Macedonia "cannot under any circumstances" give up its name.

In an interview with RFE/RL in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Gligorov said that Macedonia's claim to its name dates to a 1944 act of Parliament. He said that "nobody in Macedonia" has the power "under any circumstances" to abandon the nation's constitutional name. He said Parliament can't do it and none of the political parties could accept it. If the name were surrendered, the president said, the consequences for Macedonia and for stability in the region, as he put it, "would be disastrous."

The name of Macedonia long has been a point of contention between Greece and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Greece, which has a large northern province of the same name, imposed an economic embargo on Macedonia, charging that the republic had claims on the province.

Under pressure from the United States, the Greeks lifted the embargo in exchange for Macedonia's dropping disputed state symbols. But diplomatic relations and mutual recognition between the two countries remain in dispute because of the name controversy.

On another topic, Gligorov said in the interview that the region of Kosovo must remain in Yugoslavia. He said negotiations between the government of Yugoslavia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians should begin immediately. He said that an appropriate compromise would grant the Kosovo Albanians autonomy but without any changes in the Yugoslav borders or ultimate sovereignty.