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FILE PHOTO: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, seen wearing a tie, jokes with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos before his speech at the parliamentary group of Syriza and Independent Greeks in Athens, Greece, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's defence minister and key ally in a fragile left-right coalition said he would try to block a deal brokered with Macedonia last month to end a decades-long dispute over its name.

Greece had in the past threatened to hinder Skopje's bid to join the European Union and NATO, arguing that use of simple "Macedonia" could imply territorial claims over the northern Greek region of the same name and amounted to theft of ancient Greek culture. The new name the two countries agreed on, North Macedonia, has the geographical qualifier which Athens sought.

But the pact sparked protests and political storms on both sides of the border.

Panos Kammenos, who heads the right-wing Independent Greeks party, said he would not endorse the accord, which has to be ratified by the national parliaments in both countries.

"For me its a its a bad deal, and I will try to block it," Kammenos told a news conference.

Two lawmakers from the Independent Greeks broke ranks and quit the party over the issue last month, leaving the leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' coalition down to 152 seats in the 300-seat parliament - its slimmest parliamentary majority since Tsipras took office in 2015.

(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Reuters