The prime minister of Greece has urged his people to support deeply unpopular austerity reforms in order to avoid a "catastrophic" bankruptcy.

George Papandreou made the appeal in an address to parliament on Sunday, at the beginning of three days of debate leading up to a crucial parliamentary confidence vote on his new cabinet.

Papandreou said the country's problems would not be solved by asking the International Monetary Fund to leave.

He said the country needed to be united on this issue, and called on the opposition to "stop fighting in these critical times, stop sending the image that the country is being torn apart".

"Showing that we are split is not helping us at all," he said.

Opposition calls

Antonis Samaras, the main opposition leader, has called on Papandreou to step down to pave the way for elections and renegotiation of the bailout.

"Why is the government insisting on us supporting the mistake? It does not want consensus but complicity," Samaras said.

The cabinet hopes to push the reforms through by the end of June, but weeks of anti-austerity rallies on the steps of parliament have created political uncertainty and spooked investors who fear public rage may weaken the government's resolve.

Papandreou said the new Greek government would "correct injustices" that he said emerged with the implementation of the bailout deal, adding that he was ready to talk to the opposition regarding the issue of taxes.

He confirmed that the country was in talks for a new bailout package that would be "roughly equal" to the first package of $155bn, which was agreed to in May.

He also called for a referendum to be held in the autumn on constitutional changes.

"We won't pay"

Outside parliament, protests continued for the 29th day against the proposed austerity measures. More than 10,000 people gathered on Sunday, chanting "We won't pay! We won't pay!"

Al Jazeera's Tim Friend, reporting from the capital, Athens, said: "The anger is deep and (protesters) resent having to pay the price for the mistakes of others as they see it, the mistakes of banks and financiers."

"The problem for the politicians here is they're being dictated to by the International Monetary Fund and events now taking place elsewhere in Europe with the euro zone finance ministers," our correspondent said.

"They are the ones now calling the shots. The Greeks really are having to simply comply and do what they say."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies