German coalition leaders optimistic about talks

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BERLIN, Nov 11 (Reuters) Leaders of Germany's grand coalition said today they were optimistic the two sides could resolve key issues in a meeting tomorrow in Berlin.

Kurt Beck, chairman of the Social Democrats, said he was optimistic about reaching an agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats on issues such as extending jobless benefit payments to older workers and a minimum wage.

''We've fulfilled all the conditions that the coalition has set up,'' Beck said. ''It's now dependent on good will. I assume that it will be there.'' Erwin Huber, chairman of the Christian Social Union that is the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, said he was also optimistic.

''A political decision is due tomorrow and we're capable of making it,'' Huber said.

The two sides failed a week ago to resolve their disputes over a wide range of issues. Party leaders vowed to revisit them on November 12. The issues also include the part-privatisation of state rail operator Deutsche Bahn and childcare benefits.

Poor pinion poll scores, looming state elections and the challenge of the Left party prompted Beck to chart a new left-leaning course that fuelled tension in the coalition.

Merkel has made clear she would not reverse economic reforms and said cutting unemployment, supporting economic growth and maintaining solid public finances were her priorities.


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