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Grand coalition talks adjourned over key refugee issue

Six hours of top-level talks to forge a German coalition government have stalled over refugee issues. Negotiators adjourned at two in the morning saying only they were "determined to find solutions."

Angela Merkel departs the coalition talks in the darkness

Coalition talks continued until 2 a.m. Monday morning

Six hours of nighttime talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats led by Martin Schulz were adjourned early Monday morning with "all sides" ostensibly still working toward a February 4 deadline.

"The work and the discussion continues; perhaps not always at such hours," said Michael Grosse-Brömer, manager of Merkel's Bundestag parliamentary alliance comprising her Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU).

Read more: Germany's coalition talks: What happens next?

In what was portrayed as a joint statement, Grosse-Brömer said "all sides" were "determined to find solutions."

A Social Democrat (SPD) source quoted by Reuters said "squealing" summed up the tone of Sunday night's talks, with the three parties still at odds on a SPD call to allow relatives abroad to join refugees granted subsidiary protection status. The unusual description is taken from a speech by SPD parliamentary leader Andrea Nahles, who promised at a recent party congress that the SPD would negotiate at coalition talks "until the other side starts squealing."

The issue had been forwarded to "expert level," a reference to working groups drawn from the three parties, that had also consulted throughout the weekend.

Grosse-Brömer last Friday sketched out the February 4 deadline and agenda, saying negotiators were split into 18 working groups.

Read more:The major sticking points in Germany's upcoming coalition talks 

Key disagreements

Earlier reports said 15 lead negotiators at Sunday night's main six-hour round of talks involving Merkel, Schulz and Bavaria's CSU had "gone through" topics of foreign policy, development aid cooperation, defense and human rights.

Alongside refugee policy, however, key disagreements also remained on labor policy and health insurance — following policy changes demanded at an SPD party conference in Bonn a week ago that handed Schulz only a narrow go-ahead to seek a further grand coalition.

Renewed failure could force Merkel to head a risky minority government or trigger a second German federal election only months after last September's federal poll that left the conservatives and SPD with heavy losses.

Germany was stunned in November by the unusual collapse of a post-election coalition bid — intended between Merkel's conservatives, the opposition liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and opposition Greens.

ipj/aw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)