SPD denies 'green light' for new German government, but keeps options open

No German 'grand coalition' yet: SPD's Schulz

GERMAN Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz said yesterday that his party is considering backtracking on its pledge not to enter another "grand coalition" with Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, with internal discussions due to be held next week.

But, following an appeal from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Mr Schulz agreed to meet Ms Merkel and Horst Seehofer, leader of her Bavarian sister party, on Thursday night for talks.

The chairman said the SPD's executive committee would discuss various options on Monday, and make a proposal which would be discussed at SPD's party conference from December 7 to 9 in Berlin.

After Merkel's negotiations to form a coalition with two smaller parties broke down, however, that left only a return to the grand coalition, a minority government, or new elections as her options. Merkel is casting around for a coalition partner after her center-right bloc shed support to the far right in a September 24 election and her attempts to form a three-way tie-up with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens failed.

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Noting that his party and Merkel's bloc continue to govern as a caretaker government, he said "we have no time pressure" and would "not rule out any options".

Party leader denies he agreed to start talks on new government with Merkel.

He said whoever circulated such reports was damaging trust.

Speaking after Schulz's statement, CDU chief executive Klaus Schüler said his party respected what the SPD chairman had to say and would wait for the Social Democrats to make a decision about whether to officially pursue talks.

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Germany's Bild newspaper and the news agencies Reuters and DPA reported earlier on Friday that a deal had been reached to pursue the grand coalition option.

"We have a lot of options for building a government".

The SPD's top brass will then present their recommendation to party rank and file during their congress from Thursday. "That's exactly what I will propose to the party leadership on Monday", Schulz said.

"Germany's European politics must change", Mr Schulz, a former president of the European parliament, told the magazine.

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"Giving Emmanuel Macron a positive answer will be a key element in every negotiation with the SPD", Schulz was quoted as saying in the interview made available on Friday, adding that he also backed a joint European Union tax policy.

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