ATHENS (AFP) - Greece appealed for a debt rescue from the EU and IMF on Friday and said that help should arrive within days, in a dramatic turn for the eurozone at risk from Greek contagion. Prime Minister George Papandreou told his nation in a televised speech that the aid was a national need which would offer us a safe port to allow our boat to float again. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose govt has been reluctant to provide aid to Greece, declared that the rescue package would be activated only if the stability of the euro were threatened. Merkel spoke after the EU said it did not see any obstacles and would give rapid treatment to the request for a three-year debt rescue worth up to about 45 billion euros in the first year at concessionary rates of about five percent. International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the fund would move expeditiously. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, who meets Strauss-Kahn in Washington on Saturday during a G20 finance ministers meeting over the weekend, said he expected no problem in getting the aid which would be available in a few days. The dramatic appeal for help removed a big slice of damaging uncertainty in financial markets. But the euro fell again and the interest rate Greece must pay to borrow shot back up after an initial fall, amidst market scepticism about how a rescue will be enacted and over Greek statistics. The activation of the (EU-IMF aid) mechanism is a national need, Papandreou said. Our partners will do what is necessary to offer us a safe port to allow our boat to float again, he said. This would send a message to the markets that the European Union is protecting the euro, he said, railing against the previous conservative government and speculators. Today the situation in the markets risks ... squandering not only the sacrifices made by Greeks but also the normal functioning of the economy due to the high interest rates, he said. The Socialist prime minister, elected in October, accused the previous government of making criminal choices. Eurozone countries have been divided over how to deal with Greece, with Germany insisting that Athens should first clean up its financial house. Once Greece has put forward a savings plan, Merkel said on Friday, The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund would have to determine whether there is a situation whereby the stability of the euro as a whole makes it necessary to provide an aid programme for Greece. Papandreou made his plea before a nation facing unprecedented austerity, just the day after the latest in a series of strikes against massive reforms. But Greece is in a desperate dilemma, and its credibility has been fatally undermined by a series of statements showing that it has misreported key data for the eurozone ever since it gained access as an early member. The country has overall public debt of about 300 billion euros (399 billion dollars) or twice the debt of Britain, a far bigger economy. The interest rate on Greek debt dropped sharply minutes after the Papandreous announcement but soon moved back up to 8.66 percent. And the euro fell again to 1.3279 dollars compared to 1.3293 a day earlier. Greece accepted the aid one day after the EU said it now estimated the public deficit last year at 13.6 percent instead of 12.9 percent, with more to come if data turned out to be wrong. Moodys credit rating agency downgraded Greek debt and warned it might downgrade further. It all added up to a hellish week in the words of one analyst. Some compare the situation to a debt disaster in Argentina in 2001, and suggest that Greece will end up restructuring its debt. At Lloyds Banking Group, Kenneth Broux said: Events in Greece are close to spiralling out of control. On Wednesday, the IMF warned that the Greek situation could spread to other weak countries in the eurozone, where Portuguese debt yields shot up on Friday, and that this could lead to a full-blown sovereign debt crisis.