Protesting Plan That Would Use The Name Macedonia
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Greek Americans rallied near the White House on Sunday to urge the United States not to allow a southern Yugoslav republic to usurp the name Macedonia from its neighboring Greek province.
″We have come to the capital of our country to raise our voices against one of the most atrocious crimes about to be commited,″ John Nathinas, president-designate of the American Hellenic Council, told the rally. ″We are very angry.″
U.S. Park Police, who flew over in a helicopter, estimated the crowd on the Ellipse at 15,000.
Greece is worried that the southernmost republic of the disintegrated Yugoslavia, which claims the name Macedonia, will be granted formal diplomatic recognition by the United States and other countries.
Those at the rally said the name has belonged to Greece through nearly 4,000 years of history and was made famous by Greeks like Aristotle and his student, Alexander the Great.
The issue has become an emotional one in Greece, which believes adoption of the name by a Slavic republic is a sign of its intention to eventually take over Greek territory. The region has been the subject of fierce fighting, most recently in the 1940s.
And it has become a symbol for the defense of Greek heritage, a symbol that clearly was potent among American Greeks who traveled to Washington from Florida, New York, Ohio, North Carolina and other places.
Signs in the crowd proclaimed, ″Macedonia: Only One, the Greek One,″ and ″Mr. Bush, Do Not Stab Your Friends in the Back.″ One sign bearing a map of the Greek region said ″Read My Map: This is Macedonia.″
Nathinas appealed to President Bush ″to protect the values of history. You have to make the decision. Don’t wait for others.″
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos led the rally in a memorial service for Greeks killed defending their country and Cyprus, the Mediterranean island partly occupied by Turkish troops.
″We need to speak up,″ said George Asimellis, 26, a Tufts University student who said he had driven 10 hours from Boston to attend the rally.
″Always Greece loses, because we are peaceful. We can’t tolerate any more.″ He said he was worried about Bush’s ″wait-and-see″ attitude on the Macedonia issue. ″He’s wait and see on every issue,″ Asimellis said.