(dpa) - Visiting NATO Secretary General Japp de Hoop Scheffer Monday backed Macedonia's bid to join NATO weeks after the alliance decided not to invite it to do so.
"I am optimistic that ... what couldn't be done at the summit in Bucharest, would be achieved as soon as possible," Scheffer said after talks with Macedonian foreign minister Antonio Milososki.
During the NATO summit in Bucharest earlier this month, Macedonia was not invited to join NATO because of its name dispute with the NATO-member Greece.
Athens claims the name "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim on its same-named province and insists it will not allow Skopje to join NATO or the European Union before the name dispute is resolved.
Macedonians were bitterly disappointed at not being invited to join the NATO and the country is now in a domestic political crisis with early parliamentary elections called for June 1.
Scheffer is due to meet Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Defence Minister Lazar Elenovski later.