UN admission fails to lift Skopje gloom

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The Independent Online
SKOPJE - Macedonians greeted the news that their state had become the 181st member of the United Nations on Thursday with a mixture of gloom and bitterness.

State-run Macedonian television covered the General Assembly session live, and celebratory fireworks lit up the skies over the central square of the capital, Skopje. But only a handful of people gathered to watch.

'All this struggle, all this never-ending agony, was it worth it?' asked one of the few onlookers in the central square.

In concessions to Macedonia's neighbour, Greece, which had opposed the republic's admission to the UN, the General Assembly accepted the state under a temporary name - 'The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' - and did not hoist the national flag.

The Prime Minister, Branko Crvenkovski, was the only official voice of optimism on Thursday. Earlier in the day, parliament had called a vote of no- confidence in the government over its capitulation to the UN conditions for admission.

'This is the first step towards Macedonia's affirmation abroad, after which we expect further recognition by individual countries,' Mr Crvenkovski said.

Macedonia's largest opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, tabled the no-confidence motion, saying Mr Crvenkovski's cabinet had violated the constitution by accepting the compromise name.

The temporary name was proposed by Britain, France and Spain after Greece had blocked international recognition of Macedonia for several months, claiming the name implied territorial claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Athens also argued that the 16-ray 'Sun of Vergina' on the Macedonian flag was a 2,300-year-old Greek emblem dating back to King Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.