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Thousands of Greeks to protest against Macedonia name compromise

ATHENS (Web Desk) – Tens of thousands of Greeks were expected to urge the government Sunday not to compromise in a festering name row with neighbouring Macedonia, at a mass rally in Athens that organisers vow will be “majestic”.

Athens objects to Macedonia s name, arguing it suggests that Skopje has claims to the territory and heritage of Greece s historic northern region of the same name.

However, leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been considering a resolution to the 27-year-old dispute, angering many opposition members and his own nationalist coalition partners.

Hours before Sunday s rally was scheduled to start at 1200 GMT, crowds of flag-bearing Greeks were heading towards central Syntagma square in the capital.

Organisers said they expected around a million participants on Syntagma Square, with many travelling from across the country or even abroad.

“Macedonia is Greek and only Greek. They are trying to steal history. We all have to fight and let the world know,” said Allia Sarellis, a member of the Greek diaspora who flew in from the United States.

Around 2,500 buses from northern Greece and two ships from Crete were bringing thousands of demonstrators, reports said. Police declined to give numbers.

Several protesters wore traditional garb, including the uniform of Greek guerrillas who fought Bulgarian bands and Ottoman forces in Macedonia in the early 20th century.

“Thousands of Cretans have shed their blood for Macedonia,” a bearded Cretan protester told Skai TV.

The protest — the second on the Macedonia issue in a fortnight — has been organised and funded by Greek diaspora groups, with the support of retired officer associations, cultural unions and church groups.

“It will be majestic… It will send a very strong message both inside and outside Greece,” rally spokesman Michalis Patsikas told reporters midweek.

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