Greece to end row with Skopje

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THE TROUBLED relationship between Greece and Macedonia appears to be on the mend following the adoption by Athens of a more conciliatory policy towards its northern neighbour.

The change of tone was signalled this week by the Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou, when he indicated that Greece's national interests lay in helping Macedonia to survive as a stable country within its present borders. The sabre- rattling against Macedonia, which he and other Greek politicians had engaged in right up to last year's general election, has been pushed aside in favour of a more reasoned and accommodating approach, befitting the presidency of the European Union.

Mr Papandreou moved to prevent dissent from breaking out within his Pasok party by announcing that he was handling the matter personally with the Foreign Minister, Karolos Papoulias. The shift could help to prevent conflict in the Balkans spreading south, while bringing some stability to the impoverished former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, which is beset by ethnic rivalry. and surrounded by hostile neighbours.

Less than a month into its six-month presidency of the EU, the Socialist government of Mr Papandreou is trying hard to reach a compromise with Skopje, according to sources in Athens. Despite continuing differences - most prominently over the country's name, which Greece claims as its own - the Pasok government has concluded that there is no benefit in clashing with its EU partners on this issue and that it has much more to gain, strategically and economically, from keeping on the right side of the Western powers.

ATHENS - The former Greek conservative prime minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, threatened yesterday to sue the socialist Culture Minister, Melina Mercouri, over her comments on his private antiquities collection, Reuter reports.

Ms Mercouri, presenting the findings of five archeologists, said many items in Mr Mitsotakis's collection of relics came from ancient graves that had been robbed on his home island of Crete. She said she would send the findings to a public prosecutor.