Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou started a campaign on Monday to secure a new international bailout by imposing years of austerity on a nation already seething over corruption and economic mismanagement.
Unease is growing within Papandreou's ranks about the consequences of waves of budget cuts demanded under successive deals with the European Union and IMF -- and this could turn into alarm after at least 80,000 Greeks crammed a central Athens square to vent their anger over the nation's dire state.
As the government struggles to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt, the Socialist cabinet began discussing the medium-term economic plan which will impose 6.4 billion euros of extra savings this year alone.
This is the first stage of a drive to turn the plan, agreed on Friday with the EU and IMF as the price of a new financial rescue, into law despite signs of dissent in the ruling party.
German and French banks held over two thirds of Greek government bonds in international lenders' hands at the end of last year, bank lending data showed on Monday.
Under Greece's austerity policies, unemployment has already hit 15.9 percent of the workforce and the medium-term plan aims for a further 22 billion euros in budget steps in 2012-15.
Greece's first, 110 billion-euro, bailout assumed that it could resume borrowing commercially early next year. This now appears inconceivable, meaning a new package is vital.