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BERLIN -- Germany's biggest opposition party is ready to begin talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on a minority government, offering her a way to restore political leadership.

It's the first sign the Social Democratic Party is ready to help Merkel remain in office after her talks on forming a coalition with three other parties fell apart. Social Democratic Party head Martin Schulz, who faces party pressure to go further and disavow his refusal to join a Merkel government, met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier Thursday for consultations.

Two months after an inconclusive election that brought a far-right party into the parliament, the impasse has left Merkel stranded even though she won a mandate for a fourth term. With Germany's political map in flux, Merkel's aversion to governing without a parliamentary majority and the Social Democratic Party's refusal to enter a coalition with her for a third time may both be up for negotiation.

"Of course we want to help Germany and we haven't ruled out anything," party lawmaker Karl Lauterbach said in a ZDF television interview. That includes the option of a "grand coalition" with Merkel's Christian Democrat-led bloc as a last resort, he said.

Schulz told a German wire service that he's sure a "good solution" can be found. "The [Social Democratic Party] is completely aware of its responsibilities in the current difficult situation," Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted him as saying Wednesday.

Steinmeier has urged parties to put responsibility to the nation ahead of their own interests, increasing pressure on the Social Democratic Party. The party is split between those on the left who see the two coalitions with Merkel as the main reason for the slump in its support and those who spy a chance to push through policies such as expanded health care.

Many in the Social Democratic Party would prefer to stay out of government to prevent the far-right Alternative for Germany, which entered parliament for the first time with 12.6 percent of the vote in September, from becoming the biggest opposition force.

Information for this article was contributed by Rainer Buergin of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 11/24/2017

Print Headline: German opposition party offers to discuss coalition

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