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German finance minister blasts CSU's 'attacks against Merkel'

Wolfgang Schäuble had sharp words for the sister party of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Tension between Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer has grown as refugees arrive and the AfD gains ground.

On the same day as a

major meeting in Berlin

on renewable energy reform, Schäuble criticized the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavaria-based sister party of the CDU, for what he characterized as one-sided attacks on his party leader, the chancellor.

"I have to reject the formulation 'Dispute between Merkel and [Bavarian state premier and CSU chairman] Seehofer,'" the finance minister said on Tuesday in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF. "These are attacks against Merkel."

In the interview, Schäuble criticized the manner in which the CSU was targeting Merkel and her party. "There is nothing comparable from the CDU toward the CSU, neither toward the party as a whole nor toward individuals," he said of the CSU's "attacks."

Schäuble's comments referred to the ongoing conflict between the two allies, whose ties have been frayed by Merkel's handling of the abnormally high numbers of refugees that have arrived in Germany from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Seehofer became one of the chancellor's more vocal critics, certainly among her supposed supporters, as concerns mounted that Merkel's policies had driven conservative voters into the hands of anti-migrant populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Schäuble blasts CSU bullying

Horst Seehofer & Angela Merkel

Relations have soured between erstwhile allies Seehofer and Merkel

On Saturday,

German weekly "Der Spiegel" quoted a senior CSU figure, Markus Söder,

as saying the party might consider a more independent campaign in the upcoming 2017 federal elections. "We want to go into the election campaign with her [Merkel], together. But she's not making it easy for us at the moment," Söder told Spiegel.

The CDU and CSU have something akin to a mutual support and non-aggression pact for general elections; the CSU campaigns in Bavaria only, supporting the CDU nationwide, while the CDU steers clear of all Bavarian ballots. The junior partners from Bavaria have hinted at breaching this in the past, but not particularly often. The CSU has repeatedly warned, as Söder did again with Spiegel, that no credible political party can be allowed to coalesce to the right of the CDU/CSU alliance. AfD's rise has rekindled this concern.

In a likely sign of the growing crisis within the union, Merkel and Seehofer held a 30-minute talk in private on the sidelines of the energy meeting in Berlin on Tuesday. It wasn't clear what exactly the two leaders discussed.

This supposed clear-the-air discussion preceded Wednesday's scheduled meeting between all three party leaders within the "grand coalition" government - also incorporating Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel.

blc/msh (dpa, AFP)

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