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Macedonian president refuses to approve name-change deal

By Daniel Uria
Macedonian president refuses to approve name-change deal
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov refused to sign a deal with Greece changing the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia in exchange for Greece lifting its vetoes against Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

June 13 (UPI) -- Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov refused Wednesday to sign a deal to change the country's name and end a 27-year dispute with Greece.

Ivanov said he wouldn't grant approval to change the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia if passed by Madeconia's parliament.

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"My position is final and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail or threats," Ivanov said.

The president's decision came after Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reached an agreement on the name change Tuesday in acknowledgement of the Greek region of Macedonia.

In exchange for agreeing to the name change, Greece agreed to lift its vetoes against Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO.

The two prime ministers were expected to sign the agreement this weekend to send it to Macedonia's parliament where it will require a majority two-thirds vote to be approved.

If the agreement is passed by parliament Ivanov has the power to veto it and send it back to parliament for a second vote. If parliament votes to approve the agreement for a second time, Ivanov would be obliged to approve the legislation.

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While European Union and U.N. leaders praised the agreement between the two nations on Tuesday, the potential name change has been controversial in both countries.

In February, about 1.5 million demonstrators gathered in the Greek capital of Athens to protest negotiations surrounding the name change.

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