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Merkel, Social Democrats to launch coalition talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles as she leaves a meeting of the Christian Democrats CDU/CSU before the third round of exploratory talks with the SPD party on forming a coalition government, on October 17, 2013 in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles as she leaves a meeting of the Christian Democrats CDU/CSU before the third round of exploratory talks with the SPD party on forming a coalition government, on October 17, 2013 in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her defeated election rivals the Social Democrats agreed Thursday to launch formal talks aiming to build a left-right "grand coalition" government, delegation sources said.

Almost a month after September 22 elections, the party leaders struck the agreement in their third round of exploratory talks held in Berlin, after about two-and-a-half hours of negotiations.

Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), their Bavarian allies the CSU and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) will now formally recommend the launch of coalition talks to their party committees.

The deal came two days after the ecologist Greens party opted out of further talks with the conservatives, citing irreconcilable differences, which left the SPD as the only party that can govern with Merkel in her third term.

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