Tibet protesters unfurl banners in northern Greek city ahead of Olympic torch relay arrival

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) -- About a dozen pro-Tibetan protesters unfurled banners in a central square shortly before the Olympic torch relay arrived in the city on Thursday.

The protesters, most of them Greeks, gathered in the square in this northern city about half a mile away from the route of the torch for the Beijing Olympics. They were being watched by about 50 police.

The banners read: "China is not worthy of the flame," and "China stop killing Tibet." The protesters were wearing T-shirts with "Free Tibet" written across the front.

The flame arrived in Thessaloniki later without any problems. Hundreds of people turned out in the port city's central Aristotelous square, where the Olympic flame was to spend the night before heading south on Friday.

Police said they briefly detained two Falun Gong members who tried to unfurl a banner at another part of the city center shortly before the flame arrived.

It was unclear what was on the banner. The two were taken to a nearby police station but released less than half an hour later, after the torch relay arrival.

Thursday's demonstration occurred after two separate protests disrupted the flame lighting ceremony on Monday at Ancient Olympia -- by a group of French reporters and pro-Tibetan protesters -- despite the deployment of 1,000 police officers at the ancient site.

Police are bracing for possible protests in Athens where the torch relay is due over the weekend before it is flown to China.

The flame will spend Saturday night at the Acropolis and be handed over to Chinese organizers Sunday at the Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Protesters are angry at China's handling of deadly riots in Tibet earlier this month and want the torch route to be changed to exclude Tibet.


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