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Wednesday June 20th, 2018 12:06AM

The Latest: Albania praises neighbors' deal as regional plus

By The Associated Press
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on the long-running name dispute between Greece and neighboring Macedonia (all times local):

10:05 p.m.

Officials in Albania are hailing the agreement between bordering Greece and Macedonia to end their decades-long name dispute as good for the whole Western Balkans region.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called his Macedonian and Greek counterparts "two progressive leaders" and used their Twitter handles to give their praise, tweeting: "Balkans are today a better place thnx to you both."

Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati also congratulated "our neighbors & friends" for a "breakthrough agreement" that he said would lead the Balkans region to become part of the "Euro-Atlantic family."

Both Albania and Macedonia hope to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union. The European Commission in April approved the start of accession talks.

The final decision is expected from the European Council at the end of the month.

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9:30 p.m.

European Union and NATO officials have welcomed a deal between Greece and Macedonia resolving a decades-long dispute over the Balkan country's name.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday's "historic agreement" was "testament to many years of patient diplomacy," and called on the two countries' prime ministers to finalize the deal.

Stoltenberg said: "This will set Skopje on its path to NATO membership. And it will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans."

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his "sincere congratulations" to Greece's Alexis Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev. Tusk said: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible," he said.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for EU enlargement, said they looked forward to accession negotiations beginning with Skopje in June.

8:05 p.m.

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia say they have agreed on "Republic of Northern Macedonia" as the new name for the Balkan country, ending a bitter 27-year dispute that had prevented the former Yugoslav republic from joining international institutions such as NATO.

Greece's Alexis Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev made the announcements shortly after speaking by phone. The new name will be used both domestically and internationally, while Macedonia will also amend its constitution as part of the deal.

Greece had long demanded that Macedonia change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia — birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

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6:50 p.m.

The prime minister of Greece says his country has reached an agreement with Macedonia to end a decades-old dispute over the neighboring country's name.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Tuesday that a deal had been reached to give Macedonia a different name, addressing all of Greece's concerns.

Tsipras says the name would be used by the country both domestically and internationally. He did not, however, spell out what the name will be.

Greece had long demanded the former Yugoslav republic change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia — birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

The dispute has poisoned relations between the two neighbors since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

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2:20 p.m.

The leader of the junior partner in Greece's coalition government says he will vote against a proposed compromise in a name dispute with neighbor Macedonia, leaving left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to seek support from political opponents.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras' government partner, said Tuesday he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote.

In a decades-old dispute, Greece wants the former Yugoslav republic to change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's region of Macedonia — birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great. Greek opponents of the deal say modifying the name would not go far enough.

A resolution of the dispute would see Greece lift objection to Macedonia's accession to NATO.

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