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October 17 2008 at 8:05 PM
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Viktor  (Login Wiktor20)

14 October 2008 Skopje _ At least four ethnic Macedonians from Greece were detained and later released by Greek police in an incident that has upset Macedonia's Government, local media reported late Monday.

The government in Skopje is "seriously concerned" over the reported arrests and will inform Brussels about the incident, A1 TV said.

The incident allegedly occurred when the local population, predominantly ethnic Macedonians from villages near the northern Greek town of Florina, near the border with Macedonia, tried to avert Greek army exercises that they claim were to take place on their own private property.

The locals tried to stop the troops, which led to an intervention by Greek police Special Forces who arrested four protestors, injuring one of them, A1 TV reported.

The four protestors were released without charge on Thursday morning, A1 TV reported.

Pavle Voskopulos, head of the Greek Rainbow party, which represents the unrecognized Macedonian minority in the country, said the incident was motivated by politics.

"It is obvious that this is an open demonstration of force by the state. The message is: Stay calm, be quiet, don't speak or try to open minority issues," Voskopulos said Thursday in an interview for the BBC's Macedonian Service.

Greece officially does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority in the north of the country. Athens claims that "a handful" of people calling themselves Macedonians cannot be considered a formal minority.

So far there has been no official reaction to the event from the Greek authorities. Greece has been holding military exercises near the Macedonian border since this Summer. The Skopje authorities have characterised these exercises as "disturbing pressure" on Athens' part.

The incident has come at a time of cool relations between Skopje and Athens.
Both countries are engaged in UN sponsored talks to find a solution to their long standing dispute over Macedonia's name.

In April, Athens blocked a prospective invitation to Macedonia to integrate in NATO, arguing that the country must first change its name. Greece argues that Macedonia's name implies a territorial claim over the northern Greek province of the same name.


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