Greek PM appears to back off referendum plans

    Just Watched

    Greek PM calls for 'agreement'

Greek PM calls for 'agreement' 03:11

Story highlights

  • Papandreou calls on opposition to work with him to support bailout
  • Stepping aside would be "irresponsible," he says
  • Papandreou's remarks came after opposition leader called for his resignation

Prime Minister George Papandreou said Thursday that a controversial proposal to hold a referendum on an international bailout for his country would not be necessary if the opposition were to support the tough austerity measures that accompany it.

Papandreou's comments came in response to the call by opposition leader Antonis Samaras that he would support the bailout but wanted Papandreou to step aside.

As of early Friday, it was still unclear whether there would be a referendum in December, as Papandreou had called for earlier this week, though it appeared unlikely.

Samaras repeated a call for Papandreou, who faces a confidence vote Friday night, to step down and for snap elections within six weeks.

Calling Papandreou untrustworthy, he said: "We are asking you to resign to give power to people to negotiate new measures."

"It's nothing that I can rule out, and I'm not clinging to any chair," Papandreou said about the prospect of giving up his job. "That's the political cost I'm taking on, me personally, for something which I did not cause."

    Just Watched

    Greece threatened with euro exit

Greece threatened with euro exit 02:49

    Just Watched

    Germany to Greece: Vote must be held

Germany to Greece: Vote must be held 03:14

    Just Watched

    G-20 Summit opens in France

G-20 Summit opens in France 04:03

    Just Watched

    Greek referendum: What's at stake?

Greek referendum: What's at stake? 01:08

Papandreou said he was not interested in being re-elected, only in saving the country from economic disaster should Greece default on its debts. The political instability in Greece has caused political and financial jitters throughout Europe and beyond, as world leaders meet in Cannes, France, for the G-20 economic summit.

    "Everything is on the table," Papandreou said. "Well, the government will be. But let's talk about it. Let's debate it. You don't expect -- out of the blue -- for a government to resign. That would be irresponsible." He added, "We cannot at this period of time leave a vacuum in power."

    He called on Samaras "to come back to the room and participate in this conversation about forming a government, of a wider support for the good of the country."

    Papandreou appeared hurt by criticism of the bailout itself, which was negotiated October 26 and would impose strict austerity measures on Greece.

    "We managed to get the biggest-ever package ever given to a country on the planet," he said of the deal, which would wipe out 100 billion euros in Greek debt, half of what it owes to private creditors. It comes with a promise of 30 billion euros from the public sector to help pay off some of the remaining debts, making the whole deal worth 130 billion euros ($178 billion).

    "Please tell me," Papandreou said, "Name one government that has ever brought to Greece such a package."

    But the package comes with strings that would require Greece to slash government jobs, privatize some businesses and reduce pensions.

      Just Watched

      Greek PM says people have right to vote

    Greek PM says people have right to vote 00:59

      Just Watched

      U.S. student in Greece during protests

    U.S. student in Greece during protests 02:30

      Just Watched

      Greeks on referendum: 'Totally confused'

    Greeks on referendum: 'Totally confused' 02:15

      Just Watched

      Greek government under fire for surprise

    Greek government under fire for surprise 04:19

    Papandreou acknowledged that many Greeks would suffer under the plan, but said "We have to go through this difficult process in order to come to the other end." He called the bailout "the basis for the next new big leap and urged Greeks not to be misled but to work together to resolve the matter.

    "National unity is the most important tool in order to get out of this crisis," he said, adding that he had asked for a referendum on the bailout "so it can be the decision of every Greek, every Greek family."

    Papandreou had said earlier Thursday that the referendum he had been seeking would not be necessary if the opposition supported the tough austerity measures that accompany it.

    Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos appeared to rule out a vote, saying: "It is clear that we are not going ahead with a referendum."

    He said the government needs to show that Greeks support the package.

    As of early Friday, it was still unclear whether there would be a referendum in December, as Papandreou had called for earlier this week, though it appeared unlikely. If the Greeks were to vote against the package, that could result in their country exiting the euro zone and wreaking havoc on the markets.

    But European stock markets all closed up Thursday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi announced a rate cut. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up more than 200 points (1.76%) by the end of the day.

    At least three members of Papandreou's PASOK party have said this week they no longer back him, but he has the support of one independent, giving him a one-vote majority in Parliament.

    The bailout was greeted last week with fanfare as a way to keep debt woes in Greece and other European nations from spilling across other borders, threatening the 17 nations united under the euro currency.

    The threat to exclude Greece from the euro zone if voters reject the bailout plan might be impossible to put into practice, said one expert on European politics.

    "Legally there is no way they can make Greece leave," said Ramon Pacheco, a lecturer at King's College London. "They can put pressure on Greece, but it's up to Greece to do what it wants."

    But Greece does have the option of leaving the common currency voluntarily, he said.

        Markets in crisis

      • German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) on June 25, 2013 in Berlin.

        German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the eurozone's problems are not solved, but "we are in a much better shape than we used to be some years ago."
      • IBIZA, SPAIN - AUGUST 21:  A man dives into the sea in Cala Salada beach on August 21, 2013 in Ibiza, Spain. The small island of Ibiza lies within the Balearics islands, off the coast of Spain. For many years Ibiza has had a reputation as a party destination. Each year thousands of young people gather to enjoy not only the hot weather and the beaches but also the array of clubs with international DJ's playing to vast audiences. Ibiza has also gained a reputation for drugs and concerns are now growing that the taking and trafficking of drugs is spiralling out of control.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

        Summer could not have come soon enough for Lloret de Mar, a tourist resort north of Barcelona. Despite the country's troubles, it's partying.
      • The Euro logo is seen in front of the European Central bank ECB prior to the press conference following the meeting of the Governing Council in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, on April 4, 2013.

        The global recovery has two speeds: That of the stimulus-fed U.S. and that of the austerity-starved eurozone, according to a new report.
      • The flags of the countries which make up the European Union, outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

        The "rich man's club" of Europe faces economic decay as it struggles to absorb Europe's "poor people", according to economic experts.
      • Packed beaches and Brit pubs? Not necessarily. Here's what drew travelers to one of Spain's most beautiful regions in the first place

        Spain's economic crisis is in its sixth straight year yet tourism, worth 11% of GDP, is holding its own, one of the few bright spots on a bleak horizon.
      • Photographer TTeixeira captured these images from a May Day protest in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday by demonstrators angered by economic austerity measures. "People protested with great order, but showed discontent against the government who they blame for this economic crisis," she said. "They want the government to resign and the Troika [European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank] out of this country."

        As European financial markets close for the spring celebration of May Day, protesters across Europe and beyond have taken to the streets to demonstrate.
      • Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic delivers a speech in Mostar, on April 9, 2013. Prime Ministers from Bosnia's neighboring countries arrived in Bosnia with their delegations to attend the opening ceremony of "Mostar 2013 Trade Fair".

        As Croatia prepares to enter the 27-nation European Union, the country's Prime Minister says Italy must return to being the "powerhouse of Europe."
      • Anti-eviction activists and members of the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH) take part in a protest against the government's eviction laws in front of the Popular Party (PP) headquarters in Mallorca on April 23, 2013.

        Spain's unemployment rate rose to a record high of 27.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the Spanish National Institute of Statistics said Thursday.
      • People protest against the Spanish laws on house evictions outside the Spanish parliament on February 12, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.

        Spain has seen hundreds of protests since the "Indignados" movement erupted in 2011, marches and sit-ins are now common sights in the capital.