Responding to a formidable public outcry, the government has reversed itself and decided not to go ahead with announced plans to pardon leaders of the 1967-74 military dictatorship.

Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis had said Friday that he decided for humanitarian reasons to pardon nearly all the jailed former members of the junta, some of whom are serving life sentences.That provoked cries of outrage from socialists, communists and other leftists, both in Greece and on the island of Cyprus.

It also drew criticism from members of the governing New Democracy party, Cabinet members and other prominent conservatives.

On Sunday, the government said it was backing down in order to avoid "political tension."

Approval had been expected by a government committee this week, but newspapers reported Sunday that President Constantine Caramanlis would not sign the necessary presidential decree. His office would not confirm the reports.