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Germany

Talks begin to cool standoff over Stuttgart railway plans

Opponents and supporters of the controversial multi-billion-euro Stuttgart 21 railway and urban development project have begun meeting for exploratory talks aimed at cooling the weeks-long standoff.

Demonstrators march past Stuttgart's main railway station

Opponents are planning more rallies for the future

The talks will also explore ways of opening a dialog between the two sides and toning down the fierce debate that sparked weeks of angry protests.

On Thursday, around 2,000 supporters of the Stuttgart 21 project held a rally through the city. However, that demonstration was dwarfed by earlier marches through the city that attracted tens of thousands of protesters.

The Stuttgart 21 project aims to completely remodel the city's train station, as well as transform the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg into a major hub of European rail transportation. Stuttgart would become part of one of the longest high-speed lines in Europe, linking Paris, Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.

Baden-Wuerttemberg's state government has said it is prepared to discuss the planning of the project, while Stuttgart 21 opponents want to discuss the costs, traffic issues and alternatives to the underground through-station for high-speed trains.

Earlier attempts at organizing round table talks failed after supporters of the 4.1 billion euros ($5.5 billion) project refused to halt demolition work to the part of the railway station. Opponents have ruled out returning to talks until demolition is halted and a referendum held.

Author: Darren Mara, Nigel Tandy (Reuters/dpa/AFP)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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