Protesters Clash In Athens During Macedonia Name Deal Rally


Soon after the rally started at 1200 GMT, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside parliament as demonstrators chanted Macedonia is Greek and waved Greek flags.

Demonstrators in Greece gathered Sunday to protest a deal that would normalize Greek relations with Macedonia.

The move was made as on June 17 the agreement between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was signed in the bordering town of Prespa in an attempt to solve their decades-long dispute over the name "Macedonia", with Greece objecting to its use because it was also the name of one of its regions.

Last week, Macedonia's parliament approved a constitutional revision to change the country's name.

In exchange, Greece would lift its objections to the country joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Opposition to the deal is particularly strong in the Greek province of Macedonia, where many people have put up posters urging local lawmakers to vote against the agreement.

"Its damaging for our country", one man said.

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Twenty-five police officers were hurt in the protests, according to a statement from the Greek citizens' protection ministry, while a first aid station said two protesters were hospitalized with breathing difficulties.

Protesters are against the deal because they believe that any use of the name Macedonia in the neighbouring country's name is a usurpation of ancient Greek heritage and implies territorial claims on Greece.

Former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the protest was "a demonstration for democracy, for Greece and for our rights".

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expecting a showdown in parliament over the agreement.

"They attacked police with bits of wood and clubs, sending dozens of wounded to the hospital", said a statement from Tsipras.

The dispute dates back to 1991 and the break-up of Yugoslavia after Macedonia adopted its name when it became an independent nation.