Chancellor Angela Merkel bowed to pressure and agreed to back former East German rights activist Joachim Gauck for the German presidency on Sunday, averting a fight with opposition parties that could have distracted Berlin from solving the euro zone debt crisis.

Merkel opposed Gauck's candidacy in 2010 and instead pushed through conservative ally Christian Wulff for the ceremonial but influential post. Wulff was forced to resign on Friday in a scandal over political favours, forcing Merkel to reverse course and seek a consensus candidate with the opposition.

(Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Noah Barkin)