By Deborah Cole
The German parliament has voted by an overwhelming majority to back a third bailout for Greece, with Chancellor Angela Merkel spared a major rebellion of deputies opposing the aid.
MPs in the Bundestag lower house on Wednesday (local time) approved the €86 billion rescue by 454 votes to 113.
Eighteen abstained and attendance was markedly lower than during a vote last month approving the start of negotiations on the package.
The approval was virtually guaranteed given the dominance of Merkel's left-right "grand coalition", but the key question was whether the chancellor would face damaging dissent within her own camp.
The mass-market daily Bild had predicted around 120 MPs could jump ship. An official breakdown of how deputies voted was expected later on Wednesday, but much of the dissent seemed to come from the far-left Linke party rather than the conservatives.
Germany's powerful finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, had opened the debate telling MPs it would be "irresponsible" not to approve a third bailout for Greece.
He said Athens had earned a fresh opportunity to salvage its economy with the help of its eurozone partners, including its de facto paymaster Germany.
"There is no guarantee that all of this will work and there can always be doubts," he said.
"But considering the fact that the Greek parliament already approved most of the [stipulated reform] measures, it would be irresponsible not to seize this chance for a new beginning in Greece," he said to applause from the chamber as Merkel looked on.
Underlining the controversy throughout the eurozone surrounding the latest lifeline for Athens, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was to face a grilling in his own parliament, and a possible no-confidence vote, over his cabinet's support for the bailout.
The Bundestag's blessing was required for German participation in the latest Greek bailout plan.
But grumbling has grown ever louder within Merkel's Christian Union bloc over help extended to the Greek government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
In a rare editorial by Bild's editor-in-chief, Kai Diekmann had urged deputies to vote against the package.
"Today's vote will not save Greece, it will not save the euro and it will not save Europe," he wrote.
"On the contrary, it damages the European ideal because it divides, rather than unites. Worst still, the old ghosts of pre-EU Europe have resurfaced - the worst outcome of the EU's Greek policy," referring to the divisive debates of recent months.
Sixty of the 311 members in Merkel's parliamentary group voted last month against authorising the start of negotiations with Greece on a new rescue package, defiance that was considered a blow to the chancellor.
The Christian Democrats' general secretary, Peter Tauber, warned this week that a vote against the bailout was "tantamount to stabbing the chancellor in the back" two years before the party fervently hopes to see her stand for a fourth term.
Schaeuble, a fiscal hawk who drove a hard bargain in countless rounds of bailout negotiations with Greece, insisted deputies could vote for the package with a clear conscience.
Addressing one key area of concern, the involvement of the International Monetary Fund in the third bailout, Schaeuble told MPs there was "not the slightest doubt" it would agree by October to participate, calling it "indispensable".
Conservatives see the IMF as a guarantor of stability and rigour.
Austrian MPs late on Tuesday approved the latest Greek bailout with all members of Chancellor Werner Faymann's centrist "grand coalition" voting in favour.