ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- A Greek opposition leader has called on the prime minister to resign and led his party in a dramatic walkout during a parliamentary debate about the viability of the government.
Antonis Samaras' statements Thursday came amid an intense political crisis in Greece, after Prime Minister George Papandreou shocked the country and European leaders earlier this week by saying he wanted to put a hard-fought new European debt deal to a popular vote.
Samaras did not indicate whether he would vote in favor of the deal when it comes before parliament. But he stressed that he had said from the start that the latest agreement was "unavoidable."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece's prime minister abandoned his explosive plan to put a European rescue deal to popular vote and opened emergency talks Thursday with his opponents, demanding their support in parliament to pass the hard-fought agreement into law.
Prime Minister George Papandreou changed his mind after a widespread rebellion from within his own Socialist party over the referendum idea, but ignored repeated calls to resign. He faces a critical vote of confidence in his government Friday.
Papandreou sparked a global crisis Monday when he announced he would put the latest European deal to cut Greece's massive debts - an accord that took months of negotiations - to a referendum. The idea horrified other EU nations and Greece's creditors, triggering turmoil in financial markets as investors fretted over the prospect of Greece being forced into a disorderly default.
Papandreou was summoned to an emergency European meeting in Cannes, France, on Wednesday night, where the visibly irate French and German leaders said any referendum would in fact be a question of whether Greece retains its cherished membership of the euro common currency. They also said Greece would not receive the next, vital euro8 billion ($11 billion) installment of its existing bailout until after a vote was held.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos accompanied him - and led a revolt against the referendum idea on his return to Athens before dawn Thursday.
With Greece's euro membership and bailout loan lifeline suddenly in danger, pressure mounted for Papandreou to resign, with the conservative opposition and even his own deputies calling for the creation of a transition government to pass the new European debt deal.
Venizelos said as the opposition now indicated it would support the European debt deal, a referendum was no longer necessary.
"The government went to Cannes with the position that if the necessary consensus is formed there will be no need to hold a referendum," he said.
"We must highlight the fact that there is a window of a consensus that even late, even under conditions, can change the climate under which the Oct. 26 decisions will be implemented and voted," Venizelos said. "This development, irrespective of motives is particularly beneficial for the country."
He said the new debt deal would be brought to parliament under a procedure that would require a super-majority of 180 lawmakers to vote in favor. With the governing Socialists holding 152 seats, that means the debt deal will only pass if the opposition votes in favor.