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Greek police fire tear gas at farmers

RIOT police fired tear gas at farmers yesterday to prevent them driving their tractors to the Greek capital as part of a protest demanding government financial help.

At least two people, including a government opposition deputy, were hurt in the scuffles at the port of Piraeus outside Athens.

Greek farmers have been protesting for two weeks over low prices for their products and demanding financial help from the government. They have been using their tractors to block border crossings and highways across the country for days.

About 1,000 farmers, local mayors and members of parliament, arrived in Piraeus on overnight ferries from the island of Crete with dozens of tractors, pickup trucks and other agricultural vehicles they intended to drive to the Agriculture Ministry.

Authorities said they would only be allowed to carry out a demonstration on foot.

"I am awaiting the farmers at the ministry. We consider the ministry to be the home of all farmers and our door is always open," said Deputy Agriculture Minister Michalis Papadopoulos.

A group of farmers, black flags fluttering from their tractors, attempted to break through the police lines inside the port, and riot police fired tear gas to push them back.

"This was action taken to stop people who were intent on stopping (traffic) in an entire city," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said.

The farmers also blockaded the section of the port from where ferries sail for Crete, and vowed not to allow anybody through unless they were allowed to drive their tractors.


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