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Greek Neo-Nazis Try to Bust Up Macedonian Minority Party Congress

May 30, 2004

Greek police clashed Sunday with a group of 150 far-right militants who tried to force their way into a political meeting of a party representing the country's ethnic Macedonian minority.

The rightwingers, shouting nationalist slogans, were pushed back by officers who used tear gas to disperse the crowd in Salonika, said the northern city's police chief Costas Tzekis.

The group burned a poster belonging to the Rainbow party, then dispersed, police said.

The Rainbow party is part of the European Free Alliance, an EU-wide grouping of small parties seeking devolution or more autonomy for their area, and was meeting to prepare for the upcoming European Parliament elections on June 13.

Michel Mayol of Spain, one of nine EFA-allied EU parliamentary deputies, was attending the Salonika meeting, organizers said.

The group is allied in the European Parliament with the much larger Green party.

Its Greek chapter has been targeted by conservatives and ultra-nationalists for its views, and organizations defending minority rights have denounced several attacks on it by far-rightists.

Panayotis Psomiadis, the conservative regional govenor in Salonika, Greece's second-largest city, on Thursday labeled the Rainbow grouping "undesirable", saying it was organized by an association "which holds anti-national opinions".

Greece does not officially recognize its Macedonian minority, although it does recognize the existence of tens of thousands of ethnic Slavs living in the north, near the border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Text and Picture Copyright 2004 AFP.

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