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Greek Police Disperse Protesters Over Macedonia Deal, Parliament Delays Vote


A demonstrator draped in the Greek flag attacks riot police with a stick during a rally against the agreement in Athens on January 20.

Greek police have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators gathered outside parliament to protest against a historic agreement to change the name of neighboring Macedonia.

Hundreds of people massed outside the legislature in Athens on January 24 for a mostly peacefully protest, as lawmakers debated ratification of the deal to end a decades-old diplomatic dispute with Skopje.

The police took action after officers were pelted with rocks and other objects.

No injuries or arrests were reported.

A four-day parliamentary debate on the name deal was due to end late on January 24, but the vote on the agreement was delayed to the next day in order to accommodate the large number of speakers.

The speaker’s office said there would not have been enough time to allow everyone registered to speak during the debate to have a turn at the podium.

The governments of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, struck the deal in June to change the former Yugoslav republic's name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

Under the agreement, Greece will renounce its objections to Macedonia joining NATO in return for the country renaming itself -- a long-standing demand of Greece, which argues use of the current name implies territorial ambitions on its own northern province of the same name.

The delay of the vote was announcement as protesters began to gather outside parliament in Athens.

Earlier in the day, Greek Communist Party activists draped giant banners over the walls of the Acropolis, reading: "No to the Tsipras-Zaev agreement."

Rallies were also held in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

A protest by tens of thousands of people in Athens on January 20 turned violent.

The deal reached the Greek parliament after Macedonia's parliament backed a constitutional amendment to change the country's name 10 days ago.

Those who oppose the deal in Macedonia have called the deal "the greatest national treachery."

Opponents in Greece argue that the agreement does not end a potential territorial threat to Greece's Macedonia region.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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