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Hundreds of thousands protest possible name deal with Macedonia in Athens

Hundreds of thousands protest possible name deal with Macedonia in Athens

Protesters flocked to Athens from all over the country, on buses chartered by local bishops and mayors, in cars and on public transport, Efe news agency reported. Traffic was blocked throughout the city center and three major subway stops were closed.

Protesters from across Greece converge in Athens' main square outside parliament to protest a potential Greek compromise.

Greek police, however, estimated that about 140,000 people participated in the demonstration.

Outside the capital, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Thessaloniki on January 21 in the first major protest over the name dispute, with police saying 90,000 people attended but organizers putting the number at 400,000.

Many Greeks refer to it by the name of its capital, Skopje.

"When we say this demonstration is a greenhouse for neo-Nazis, it's because of nationalism and the attempt to deny the right of the people to exist [in Macedonia] and enjoy self-determination", Constantinou added.

Manos Georgiou, who was in the crowd, said: "We are trying to show the politicians that they must not give up the name 'Macedonia"'.

"Not having a solution undermines our national interest", Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said recently. Protesters clad in replicas of the metal breastplates and helmuts ostensibly worn by Alexander's ancient Macedonian army massed around a statue of the conquerer, near a giant banner that read, "There is one Macedonia and it is Greek!"

Suspected far-right supporters attempted to attack the counter-demonstration, but were prevented by police who used stun grenades and tear gas to hold them back.

By the end of the day, far-right demonstrators set ablaze a building squatted by anarchists and vandalised a Holocaust monument, leaving pro-Golden Dawn graffiti tagged on it.

There were also reports alleging that anarchists attacked a biker carrying a Greek flag and a person wearing a T-shirt commemorating the participation of Greek mercenaries in the massacres of Muslim civilians in Bosnia during the 1990s.

The dispute has remained unresolved since the former Yugoslav republic's independence in 1991.

The country is recognised by global institutions as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, even though about 130 countries refer to it simply as Macedonia.

Solving the name issue has turned into a key priority of the government in Skopje which has step up efforts to reach a deal with neighboring Greece.

Athens thus seeks guarantees that the use of the name by its neighbour implies no claim to parts of its own territory.

But the 26-year-old dispute between two southeastern European neighbors - Greece and Macedonia, over who owns the name "Macedonia" - is seen by both sides as existential and essential to national identity.

Theodorakis requested a referendum over the issue.

Greece ultimately got its way, and the Macedonian representative was seated next to his counterpart from Thailand. Police said about 140,000 protesters were in attendance Sunday.The protests come after Greece and Macedonia restarted talks last month to resolve a dispute that began more than two decades ago.Earlier this month, United Nations negotiator Matthew Nimetz voiced optimism the two countries could end the dispute this year.

Nationalists in both countries have rallied around the dispute to broaden their bases.

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