German lawmakers back Greek bailout despite rebellion; Tsipras sacks dissenters

Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:31pm EDT
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By Paul Carrel

BERLIN (Reuters) - German lawmakers gave their go-ahead on Friday for the euro zone to negotiate a third bailout for Greece, but a warning from Chancellor Angela Merkel that the alternative was chaos failed to prevent a hefty rebellion in her own party.

The Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, whose backing was essential for the talks to start, decisively approved the move by 439 votes to 119, but almost a fifth of Merkel's conservatives voted 'No'.

Popular misgivings run deep in Germany, the euro zone country that has already contributed most to Greece's two bailouts since 2010, about funneling yet more aid to Athens.

Merkel's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, had suggested that Greece might be better off taking a time-out from the euro zone to sort out its daunting economic problems, although the creditors' offer to Athens includes the conditions for more austerity and economic reform that Berlin had demanded.

But Merkel argued for a new deal to be negotiated to prevent a Greek exit from the euro that might undermine the entire currency union, and said neither Greece nor the other 18 euro zone member countries were willing to accept a suspension.

"The alternative to this agreement would not be a 'time-out' from the euro ... but, rather, predictable chaos," she told the Bundestag. "We would be grossly negligent, and acting irresponsibly, if we didn’t at least attempt this way."

"LAST ATTEMPT"   Continued...

A Greek national flag flutters atop the parliament building as smoke from a raging wildfire rises in Athens July 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis