March 14, 2016 / 5:43 PM / a year ago

Portuguese opposition allows approval of refugee aid for Turkey, Greek loans

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's divided parliament on Monday approved Lisbon's contribution to a European Union aid package to help Turkey deal with the migrant crisis and to new bailout loans for Greece, thanks to a last-minute change of mind by the main opposition party.

An abstention by the center-right Social Democrats, the largest party in parliament, which had threatened to block the legislation, was enough to allow the ruling Socialists to approve the funding as part of this year's budget.

Parliament is now likely to pass this year's budget comfortably on Wednesday in the final reading.

However, the minority government's far-left allies - the Communists and Left Bloc - voted against the EU finding measures, showing how frail their alliance is.

The three parties joined forces for the first time in November to oust a center-right administration after years of austerity. Many analysts doubt the government will last its full term as differences on key issues such as EU fiscal rules are likely to grow.

Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa had acknowledged that the Communists and Left Bloc were acting in line with their known views, but criticized the Social Democrats for threatening to block measures they had approved when in power.

But the Social Democrats, who said they would still vote against the overall budget, were quick to point to the government's fragility.

"What this government and their radical leftist allies have promised - a stable arrangement that guarantees European commitments - does not exist. They want to pass the buck," said Antonio Amaro, a Social Democrat lawmaker and spokesman.

Portugal, Western Europe's poorest nation, is due to transfer 24 million euros to Turkey as part of a 3 billion euro EU package agreed in November. Its scheduled contribution to the Greek loan package totals 107 million euros this year.

Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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