Macedonian tinderbox

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The Independent Online

Unlike most of the rest of Yugoslavia, Macedonia broke away without bloodshed - no mean feat, given its ethnic composition and the hostility of its southern neighbour, Greece.

Unlike most of the rest of Yugoslavia, Macedonia broke away without bloodshed - no mean feat, given its ethnic composition and the hostility of its southern neighbour, Greece.

Full nationhood was delayed from 1991 to 1995 by Greek objections. Athens, which uses historical evidence to contend that Macedonia has always been Greek, was outraged at the use of the name by an independent country. It came close to threatening war over what it said was an implied claim to part of its territory: the formal title, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, was devised to appease Greece. To the danger of external violence was added the volatile relations between Albanians, about a quarter of Macedonia's population, and the Serb-speaking majority. It is a tinderbox in which political violence frequently spilt over from Albania and Serbia but, with the help of Nato troops, Macedonia was insulated from the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

Senior Albanian politicians in Macedonia strongly oppose attempts by guerrillas from Kosovo to seize territory in Albanian-speaking parts of Serbia and Macedonia, fearing that some are pursuing the dream of a "greater Albania", incorporating Kosovo, the Presevo valley of Serbia and western Macedonia.

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