By Odile Duperry with Alex Pigman
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has announced his resignation and called for snap elections, as he went on the offensive to defend the country's massive bailout after it triggered a rebellion within his own party.
The election is expected to be held on September 20, the Greek news agency ANA said, citing government sources.
"I will shortly meet with the president of the republic and present my resignation and that of my government," Tsipras said in a live televised address to the nation on Thursday (local time).
"I want to submit to the Greek people everything I have done (since taking office in January) so that they can decide once more," Tsipras said.
The move leaves Greece in the hands of a caretaker government until the vote.
Tsipras's announcement came after debt-crippled Greece paid a huge debt to the ECB on Thursday, effectively starting its third mammoth bailout, expected to cost as much as 86 billion euros over the next three years.
It is the latest gamble by the charismatic young premier, who successfully persuaded Greeks to reject tough reforms in a referendum last month, only to adopt them at a eurozone summit a week later.
The European Commission, one of the creditor institutions overseeing the new rescue package, earlier welcomed reports of a snap election in Greece, saying it would politically bolster the just launched bailout, the country's third in five years.
"Swift elections in Greece can be a way to broaden support for ESM stability support programme just signed by Prime Minister Tsipras on behalf of Greece," tweeted Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, referring to the EU bailout fund.
The election would be the second in eight months in Greece.
The government on Thursday cleared 3.4 billion euros owed to the European Central Bank, the ECB confirmed, marking an urgently needed truce in a row that saw Greek banks shuttered, the economy battered and nearly saw Greece thrown out of the eurozone.
Tsipras took the decision to call snap polls after meeting with members of his cabinet and as speculation swirled that he was to step down in a bid to regain office with a stronger hand.
Tsipras suffered an unprecedented setback in parliament on Friday, with 43 of 149 MPs in the governing Syriza party choosing to either oppose or abstain from the latest wave of creditor-demanded austerity.