Greece's cabinet decided early on Wednesday to back Prime Minister George Papandreou's proposal for a referendum on a European Union aid deal, a government spokesman said.

The cabinet expressed its support, said government spokesman Elias Mossialos. The referendum will take place as soon as possible, right after the basics of the bailout deal are formulated.

Some ministers leaving the 7-hour cabinet meeting said they had expressed criticism of the decision but decided to support the government ahead of a key confidence vote in parliament.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Renee Maltezou)