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Merkel warns ‘serious differences’ still blocking coalition deal

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel gives a statement as she arrives at the headquarters of Social democrats Party (SPD) for coalition talks to form a new government, on February 2, 2018 in Berlin. (Photo by AFP)

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Friday that Germany's top parties still had several "very serious differences" to bridge ahead of next week's deadline for sealing a coalition deal.

Heading into what she called the "decisive phase of the negotiations" on a new right-left "grand coalition", Merkel said her conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) would have to haggle down to the wire.

"There is still a whole range of very serious differences -- we have an enormous amount of work ahead of us," she said.

"I hope we will succeed but the problems are, as I said, not yet solved."

The parties have said they would like to wrap up talks by Sunday but have given themselves a two-day grace period until Tuesday if they are still struggling with key issues.

SPD chief Martin Schulz agreed there was still "quite of bit of need to negotiate" and said he would not allow the impending deadline to pressure him into a hasty agreement.

"Thoroughness must come before speed," he said.

Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said changes in health insurance and employment policy demanded by the SPD were the main bones of contention.

But he expressed optimism they would reach a deal to end the political standstill which has gripped Europe's top economy since September's general election.

"I am convinced that we will manage to do it in the coming days," he told reporters.

(Source: AFP)

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