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Dozens Protest Against Greek President Over Macedonia Deal

Opponents of the name change chant slogans in a rally in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on January 25.

Some 250 people rallied in Greece's second-largest city to protest ratification of a historic deal set to lead to normalization of relations with neighboring Macedonia.

The demonstrators gathered outside the main concert hall in Thessaloniki on January 27, with protests timed to coincide with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos's arrival at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert.

Protesters said they were angry at Pavlopoulos for not standing up against the agreement, under which Macedonia would officially change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

The protest numbers were much smaller than in demonstrations that took place prior to ratification of the deal by both countries' parliaments.

Athens has long argued that use of the term “Macedonia” implies territorial claims on Greece’s northern province of the same name and on its ancient heritage.

The deal, signed last year by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, could pave the way for Macedonia to seek membership in the European Union and NATO.

The deal has met with opposition in both Greece and Macedonia, with mainly nationalist critics saying it makes too many concessions to the other side.

After a bitter debate, the Greek parliament on January 25 narrowly approved the agreement in a move welcomed by the EU and the United States.

The deal had already been ratified by Macedonia's parliament.

Based on reporting by AP and The New York Times