German Chancellor Angela Merkel moved to defuse an election issue Wednesday by saying that any decision on a new aid package for debt-mired Greece would not come before next year.
A day after her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, made waves a month before a German general election by saying at a campaign event that Athens would need another rescue after 2014, Merkel attempted to calm the waters.
"I cannot say which sums might possibly be needed. We can only say that in the middle of next year," she told SAT.1 television.
"I cannot give or confirm any sum (of a potential new aid deal). I do not know it, you can't know it. You can only say that Greece should continue on its path and we will support it as best we can."
Schaeuble stunned observers Tuesday with an apparent shift in the German position: "There will have to be another programme for Greece."
The centre-left opposition seized on the remarks as proof that the government was hiding the facts on Greece from German taxpayers, who have footed the bulk of the bill for European rescue packages.
Schaeuble's spokesman Martin Kotthaus faced a grilling from reporters Wednesday as the eurozone debt crisis returned as an issue in the campaign for German elections on September 22.
He insisted that despite the minister's remarks, Berlin's position remained that no decision would be made on fresh European cash for Greece before next year.
"The question that is important is whether there has been a change in the situation. And there has not been," Kotthaus said.
Heavily indebted Greece has received two international bailouts in exchange for reforms including major public sector cuts in jobs, pay and pensions.
Germany, with its eurozone partners, has agreed to re-examine Greece's needs when the current aid package runs out next year.