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Greek police fire teargas to protesters over Macedonia deal

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police fired teargas at protesters outside parliament on Saturday as lawmakers were in session discussing a no-confidence motion against the government over a controversial name deal with neighboring Macedonia.

Reuters witnesses saw police fire at least two rounds of teargas at individuals who tried to scale stairs outside parliament in central Athens, angered by the accord between the two countries earlier in the week.

“Traitors, traitors,” up to 5,000 protesters gathered in the central Syntagma square chanted.

Athens and Skopje agreed this week to end a decades-old dispute over the name of the Balkan country, which it shares with a northern Greek province. Under the deal, the former Yugoslav state will be known in future as “North Macedonia”.

The agreement has triggered a storm of protest in both countries. In Athens, opposition parties filed a motion of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, angered at what they describe as a national sellout.

A vote on the motion is expected later on Saturday.

“I’m furious. That person (Tsipras) is not working in the national interests or the national sentiment of Greeks,” said demonstrator Sophia Constantinidou, 45.

The name dispute has soured relations between the two neighbors at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Many Greeks see the name issue as an attempt by Skopje to hijack Greece’s ancient cultural heritage. Once the deal is ratified, Greece has said it will support the opening of negotiations for North Macedonia to join the European Union and NATO.

Reporting By Michele Kambas and Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Catherine Evans