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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greece Blocks U.S. Marines From Crossing Its Territory

ATHENS, Greece -- Some 2,500 U.S. Marines bound for Kosovo were stuck on a ship off the Greek coast Monday, held up by the Greek government's reluctance to let them cross its territory.

A government source in Athens said Washington was exerting pressure "at a very high level" to allow the Marines through.

Greece wants NATO to stop bombing Yugoslavia before moving the troops through its territory, government sources said.

"Peace is very close, and we want NATO to stop bombing Yugoslavia before NATO moves more troops through Greece. We want to make it absolutely clear that these troops are on a peace mission and nothing else," a source said.

The Marines are on a U.S. Navy ship that was supposed to dock near the northern city of Thessaloniki late Sunday or early Monday but witnesses said it remained well away from the shore.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Greece would facilitate the movement of NATO troops "within the next days, depending on the developments. ... There would be no security vacuum after the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo," he said.

Thessaloniki has been the main transit point for NATO moving troops and supplies to Macedonia, which borders Kosovo.

It has also been the scene of violent protests, mainly by members of the Greek Communist Party, who have repeatedly tried to stop NATO forces from heading toward the Greek-Macedonian border.