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Demonstrators scuffle with riot police officers during a protest against home auctions in Thessaloniki, Greece, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

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By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police used teargas on Wednesday to disperse protesters from an Athens courtroom where they had been trying to halt dozens of planned foreclosure auctions of property.

The foreclosure auctions are a key condition of the country's international bailout but have been repeatedly disrupted by leftist activists who say they are unfair and target the poor.

TV footage showed protesters hurling objects at police in a corridor filled with smoke and police pushing them back.

Notaries, who handle the auctions, had been boycotting them due to safety concerns, but returned to work on Wednesday after the leftist-led government said it would improve the process and increase security.

Greece has also agreed to launch foreclosure e-auctions, which began on Wednesday after being pushed back by two months.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government swept to power two years ago on promises to protect primary homes and cancel unpopular reforms and austerity.

It later signed up to a new bailout and agreed to more belt-tightening, though it has pledged to protect people's primary homes.

However, Greek banks are saddled with more than one hundred billion euros in bad loans after years of financial crisis, mainly due to people's inability to repay mortgages. An austerity-induced recession has cut jobs and shut businesses.

Non-performing loans top the agenda of Greece's talks with its creditors. They are currently reviewing Greece's progress on energy, labour and public sector reforms agreed under its third international bailout, which is worth 86 billion euros.

Athens wants to speed up the implementation of some agreed reforms to wrap up its bailout review soon. It hopes to start talks with lenders on the terms of exiting the bailout next year and on further debt relief - a long-standing Greek demand.

($1 = 0.8448 euros)

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Reuters