September 26, 2005

Merkel says German SPD must accept her leadership

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's conservatives said on Monday
that full coalition talks with the Social Democrats (SPD)
cannot proceed unless they first acknowledged that Angela
Merkel and not Gerhard Schroeder was the country's rightful

"The precondition is...the recognition that we, as the
bigger partner, name the Chancellor," Christian Democrat (CDU)
leader Angela Merkel told reporters after a meeting of the
party's leadership in Berlin.

But she said preliminary exploratory talks could in any
case take place before full negotiations began.

A week after Merkel's CDU and its sister party the
Christian Social Union (CSU) narrowly beat Schroeder's SPD in
an unexpectedly tight general election, the rival parties
remain at odds over who should lead the country.

Since neither of the main parties won a parliamentary
majority with their allies, they have been forced into
exploratory talks with each other about forming a so-called
"grand coalition."

After a brief meeting last Thursday, they are due to talk
again on Wednesday, although both parties are describing the
discussions as "exploratory" exchanges rather than full-fledged
coalition talks.

Schroeder said in an interview on Sunday that he supported
a coalition with Merkel's party, but said talks should proceed
on substantive issues before the leadership question was