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Prime Minister George Papandreou's shock decision to call a referendum on Greece's bailout drew veiled threats from Germany on Tuesday and hammered markets edgy over the euro zone crisis.
European politicians complained that Athens was trying to wriggle out of the rescue deal agreed only last week, concerned not so much about the fate of Greece as the possibly dire consequences for the entire currency union.
One senior German parliamentarian suggested the euro zone might have to cast Athens adrift, cutting off its aid lifeline and allowing the nation to default.
Others were stunned by Papandreou's apparent bolt from the blue on Monday on the plan for a 130 billion-euro bailout and a 50-percent write-down on Greece's huge debt, which has unleashed fury among Greeks due to its price -- yet more austerity.
But they also urged caution as the exact question to be put to the Greek people remains unknown. EU officials said they had yet to be officially notified of the vote.
The reaction from Germany which funds a large part of European Union rescues for Greece as it struggles with a huge debt, was of scarcely disguised fury.
A leader in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition said he was "irritated" by Papandreou's announcement and said the euro zone would have to consider turning off the flow of money which has kept Greece afloat over the past year.
"This sounds to me like someone is trying to wriggle out of what was agreed -- a strange thing to do," said Rainer Bruederle, parliamentary floor leader for the Free Democrats and a former German economy minister.
"One can only do one thing: make the preparations for the eventuality that there is a state insolvency in Greece and if it doesn't fulfill the agreements, then the point will have been reached where the money is turned off."