The Vergina Sun -- alternately known as the Star of Vergina -- is reportedly depicted on university diplomas awarded by a state-run university in the small city of Štip, in north-central part of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), according to a news report carried by a private television station here.

The symbol appears on the fours corners of the diploma issued by a university, which was established in 2007, according to the Skopje broadcaster "A1".

The eyebrow-raising news comes a week after the International Court of Justice at The Hague (ICJ) opened proceedings in a lawsuit filed by fYRoM against Greece.

The former alleges that Greece violated a provision in a bilateral 1995 "interim agreement" not to block fYRoM's membership in international organisations under its provisional name, i.e. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece has vigorously countered that it did not veto fYRoM's entry into NATO (April 2008), rather a unanimous Alliance decision blocked the accession, while at the same time charging that the Skopje government has violated the interim agreement via a series of provocations, namely, by using Hellenic symbols and historical figures as part of a thinly veiled policy of irredentism vis-à-vis Greece.

The Vergina Sun, now prominently associated with the ancient kingdom of Macedon after excavations in northern Greece turned up significant artifacts emblazoned with the symbol, was brazenly featured on fYRoM's flag between 1992 and 1995.

One of the most significant provisions in the "interim agreement", in fact, was that the symbol be removed from the neophyte country's flag.

Asked about the issue, fYRoM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said he was not aware of the matter, while in any case, the depiction of the Vergina Sun on university-issued degrees is not a government decision, but a university decision.

Finally, a spokesman for the university said the school's administration decided to use the symbol -- named Vergina in honor of the northern Greek village adjacent to where it was discovered in the late 1970s -- on the degrees, while also claiming that the ancient symbol is found together with a depiction of the Virgin Mary in a local church.