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Greeks In New Protest Against Macedonia Name Deal


Greek protesters in Pella on June 6.

Thousands of people protested on June 6 in main cities across Greece against moves to solve a decades-old name row with neighboring Macedonia.

Some 2,000 people gathered in Pella, the historical capital of the ancient Macedonian kingdom, in Greece's northern province of Macedonia. However, organizers said they had hoped for twice as many participants.

Similar protests organized by the Greek diaspora, clerics, and local officialswere held in more than a dozen cities across the province.

Smaller rallies were held in central Greece, and on the islands of Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, and Kos.

The dispute dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Athens objected to its neighbor's new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece's province of the same name, which borders the Balkan country.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations with only a provisional name, Former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia.

Greece, an EU and NATO member, has also cited the dispute to veto Macedonia's bid to join the two organizations.

Both countries are under pressure to resolve the dispute, as Western leaders have said the integration of Balkan countries into the EU and NATO is the best way to improve stability in the region.

The two sides are now closer to a compromise name that will almost certainly contain the term "Macedonia."

After months of renewed discussion, the list of names has narrowed down to "New Macedonia," "Northern Macedonia," and "Upper Macedonia."

Several rallies have been held in Greece and Macedonia in recent months against a compromise solution.

On June 2, thousands of supporters of Macedonia's rightwing opposition VMRO-DPMNE party took to the streets of the capital, Skopje, to protest against the plans.

In Greece, tens of thousands demonstrated in Athens and Thessaloniki earlier this year.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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