Greek government teeters on the brink of collapse

Political turmoil in Greece deepened as Prime Minister George Papandreou faced a serious revolt within his party over his plan to call a referendum on the country's membership in the Eurozone
REPORTING FROM LONDON -- The political turmoil in Greece deepened Thursday as Prime Minister George Papandreou faced a serious revolt within his party over his plan to call a referendum on the country's membership in the Eurozone, pushing his government close to collapse.

Papandreou's finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, broke ranks and declared his opposition to the plebiscite.

"Greece's position within the Euro area is a historic conquest of the country that cannot be put in doubt," Venizelos said in a statement early Thursday after returning from the G-20 summit in Cannes, France.

Other ministers are also beginning to voice their opposition to the referendum, barely more than 24 hours after Papandreou's Cabinet was said to have given him its "full backing" on the issue. And a handful of senior members of his ruling Socialist Party have openly urged him to resign.

Papandreou has called an emergency Cabinet meeting for Thursday morning in Athens upon his own return from Cannes, where other European leaders starkly warned him that the referendum, if it goes ahead, could mean Greece's departure from the 17-nation Eurozone.

A vote of confidence in Papandreou is scheduled for Friday. He commands only a razor-thin majority in Parliament, and there is a real prospect now that he might lose the vote, which would force early elections and increase the uncertainty in Europe.

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-- Henry Chu

Photo: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou smiles after a meeting with other European leaders Wednesday before the G-20 summit in Cannes, France. Credit: Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images

 
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