October 5, 2005

Merkel, Schroeder confident on deal after talks

BERLIN (Reuters) - German conservative Angela Merkel and
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder voiced optimism after talks on
Wednesday that their rival parties would reach a power-sharing
agreement and overcome a row over who should lead the country.

A visibly pleased Merkel, whose party had threatened to
break off talks before the meeting if Schroeder did not agree
to step down, said she was "more optimistic than pessimistic"
following the two-and-a-half hour meeting.

Schroeder also struck a positive tone. "The exploratory
talks have shown that there is a basis for a grand coalition,"
he told reporters.

The rivals were forced to negotiate with each other after
neither won enough support in a September 18 election to forge
a majority with their preferred allies.

They have been at odds over who should run the country
since Schroeder refused to concede defeat on election night
despite being narrowly beaten by Merkel's Christian Democrats
(CDU) and sister Christian Social Union (CSU).

Both Merkel and Schroeder said a special meeting would take
place in the very near future to clear up the chancellor

Only Merkel, Schroeder, SPD chief Franz Muentefering and
CSU head Edmund Stoiber will attend that discussion, they said.

"We have agreed that there will be a leadership discussion
to clear up these issues, notably the personnel issues, the way
a government would work and eventually also certain issues of
substance," Merkel said.