Greece's beleaguered Socialist government has launched power-sharing talks with the main opposition conservatives, state television reported Wednesday, as anti-austerity riots ripped through central Athens.
State-run NET television said Prime Minister George Papandreou was in talks with conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras to form a possible grand coalition government to deal with the country's crippling debt crisis.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment, but several conservative deputies publicly backed the idea - and called for Papandreou to step aside.
"The most important member of a ship's crew is the captain, and the captain has to go," prominent conservative deputy Theodoros Karaoglou said. "If we joined forces, we could go to our (creditors) together to negotiate and the results of course would be better."
Wednesday's riots broke out and lasted several hours after more than 25,000 people gathered outside Parliament to protest a new package of tax hikes and spending cuts through 2015. At least 20 people were detained, police said.
The rally was called during a general strike against a new wave of austerity measures worth €28 billion ($40 billion) through 2015, exceeding the Socialists' scheduled term in office by two years.
Papandreou has suffered plummeting approval ratings and an open revolt from within his own PASOK Socialist party. One of his deputies quit the party on Tuesday night and declared himself an independent, reducing PASOK's majority to five seats in the 300-member legislature.