KIEV, Ukraine -- It is, in the words of a top U.S. official, "the world's stupidest major issue," and it threatens to cast a shadow over President Bush's sixth and final NATO summit.
It's all about a name -- "Macedonia," to be specific -- as Europe and the United States try to deal with one of the final unfinished chapters from the violent break-up of Yugoslavia.
At the NATO meeting in Bucharest on Thursday, Bush wants the alliance to offer membership to three states: Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. Already, the nations have been given an unusual six-month extension to try to prove their political worthiness for inclusion.
But Greece adamantly opposes membership for Macedonia. That's because since it declared independence in 1991, it has called itself the "Republic of Macedonia." And that, say the Greeks, suggests territorial claims on the Greek province of the same name.
In order to dispel that notion, U.S. officials involved in the negotiations say, the leaders of Macedonia -- the independent nation, not the Greek province -- agreed to be identified as "Macedonia (Skopje)"; Skopje is its capital city.
After first saying they would accept "Macedonia (Skopje)" as a NATO member, these U.S. officials say, Greek negotiators remain adamantly opposed.