* Athens bourse falls, hit by ongoing political uncertainty
* Nutreco falls as Cargill drops takeover bid
* FTSE up but pares gains as UK external deficit rises
By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Blaise Robinson
LONDON/PARIS, Dec 23 (Reuters) - A pullback on the Greek stock market on fears of early elections kept a lid on gains in European equities on Tuesday.
Dutch animal feed company Nutreco also fell, sliding 5 percent after U.S. commodities company Cargill said it was dropping a bid for Nutreco.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was 0.1 percent higher at 1,368.84 points and was up 4 percent since the start of 2014.
The Greek parliament on Tuesday failed to elect a new president by majority in a second-round vote. It has one more chance to do so next week to avert elections that could bring to power a party that wants to renegotiate the country’s bailout deal, end years of austerity and write off some Greek debt.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose term is not due to end until mid-2016, has offered to bring pro-European independents into the government and hold elections by late next year if they support Stavros Dimas, the only candidate in the presidential race.
Athens’ benchmark ATG equity index retreated 1.8 percent, having fallen nearly 20 percent in the second week of December.
“With many analysts predicting that Greek MPs will fall short of the votes needed to support presidential candidate Stavros Dimas, more destabilisation could be on the way for Greece, and by extension, the euro zone,” said Spreadex financial analyst Connor Campbell.
Across Europe, Britain’s benchmark FTSE 100 was up by 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX was flat while France’s CAC stood 0.3 percent higher.
The FTSE 100 pared some of its earlier gains after data showed Britain’s deficit with the rest of the world has risen to 27 billion pounds ($42 billion), equivalent to 6.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), matching the biggest deficit on record.
“The UK current account data has triggered some sell orders,” said AvaTrade chief market analyst Naeem Aslam. ($1 = 0.6423 pounds)
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Hugh Lawson)