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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2007, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
Greeks protest over fire response
Protest in  Athen's Syndagma square
Many people dressed in black for the silent demonstration

Thousands of Greeks have protested over the political response to forest fires that have killed 63 people and left thousands homeless.

An estimated 8,000 people filled a square in front of the parliament building in the capital, Athens.

Meanwhile, the opposition Socialist party said the government's suggestion of a terror-like campaign of arson was designed to cover up its own failures.

The verbal attack comes two-and-a-half weeks before a general election.

Polls suggest the Socialists are trailing the ruling New Democracy Party.

Stun grenades

A silent demonstration was held in central Athens's Syndagma square on Wednesday. Many people were dressed in black and carried banners that read: "No to the destruction of nature".

Satellite images show how the spread of the fires is changing

"I am annoyed by the apathy and hypocrisy of politicians. I am angry that we allowed this tragedy to happen," Apostolis Giannakidis, 24, told Reuters news agency.

Some protesters taunted riot police, who responded with stun grenades.

A demonstration in the northern city of Thessaloniki drew a crowd of about 1,000, many wearing T-shirts with the slogan: "We are all Peloponnesians."

Firefighters said on Wednesday that they had beaten back most of the major fires ravaging the Greek countryside.

But fire service official spokesman Nikolaos Diamantis said the danger was not yet over, and firefighting equipment would remain in place throughout the country.

Fast action

It is feared that the hot, dry winds that have help to spread the flames from region to region could return and rekindle the fires.

I spent Saturday night on the roof of my house watching a fire steadily progressing down the mountain towards us
BBC News website reader in Kalamata

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has pledged to act fast in restoring power to devastated villages and rebuilding houses.

His government has also started to give out instant compensation to those affected.

The authorities believe some of the fires were started deliberately, and more than 30 people have been arrested so far.

A 1m euro (680,000) reward has been offered to help catch those responsible.

There have been 120 major forest fires this year, compared with just 52 in of 2006.

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