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Greens end exploratory talks with Merkel's conservatives

Germany's Green party has pulled out of talks on forming a coalition government with Angela Merkel's conservatives. The focus for the chancellor now shifts towards an alliance with the opposition Social Democrats.

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Talks fail between Merkel's Conservatives and the Greens

"The Greens don't want to negotiate on a coalition," party chairwoman Claudia Roth told reporters early Wednesday after a second round of talks in Berlin with leaders from Chancellor Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The decision by the ecologically oriented party means the CDU/CSU must now seek to form a grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) at a third round of talks slated to take place on Thursday.

Leaders from the Greens and CDU/CSU described the six-hour meeting, which began on Tuesday, as intense and businesslike. Nonetheless, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement over key issues like tax rates on the wealthy, health insurance reform and a national minimum wage.

"We noticed that the Greens made a long part of the journey towards us but some distance remained and the Greens were not willing to bridge that distance," said the CSU's General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt.

Roth echoed sentiments that the Greens and CDU/CSU remained at odds, saying a coalition between the parties was "not sustainable or strong enough."

"We negotiated twice and discussed all the points from A to Z in depth and don't think that there can be substantial change in a third round of talks," she said.

The discussions might also have been soured by news of a big postelection BMW donation to the CDU - confirmed shortly after Germany put the brakes on an EU plan for tougher emissions standards for passenger cars.

Nonetheless, CDU General Secretary Herman Groehe said he believed the differences between the parties could have been resolved.

"I want to stress also that even in areas where there were differences, there were none which we would have viewed as insurmountable," he said. "And, at the same time, there is a clear no from us to the massive tax increases that the Greens see as inevitable - and which from our conviction are out of the question."

Eyes on SPD talks

With the Greens pulling out of coalition talks, the focus now shifts towards negotiations with the center-left SPD. Merkel headed a grand coalition government with the SPD from 2005-2009, and reviving that alliance is thought to be her preferred option.

A recent poll by the public broadcaster ARD found that two-thirds of Germans favor a grand coalition.

Merkel has been searching for a coalition partner since Germany's September 22 national election, in which the CDU/CSU fell just short of an outright majority in the Bundestag. The CDU/CSU's allies for the past four years, the pro-business Free Democrats, failed to reach the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation, prompting the talks with the SPD and Greens.

dr/jr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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