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Merkel and center-left rivals agree to recommend entering formal talks on new German gov't

  • From right, Hesse state governor Volker Bouffier, Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, German Chancellor and chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, CDU, Angela Merkel, Chief of Staff at the chancellery Ronald Pofalla and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, left, walk to exploratory talks about an coalition with the Social Democratic Party, SPD, in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Following the national elections on Sept. 22, 2013, Merkel is still in negotiations for a coalition partner for her third term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    From right, Hesse state governor Volker Bouffier, Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, German Chancellor and chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, CDU, Angela Merkel, Chief of Staff at the chancellery Ronald Pofalla and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, left, walk to exploratory talks about an coalition with the Social Democratic Party, SPD, in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Following the national elections on Sept. 22, 2013, Merkel is still in negotiations for a coalition partner for her third term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)  (The Associated Press)

  • German Social Democratic Party, SPD, leader Sigmar Gabriel, center, and his delegation walk to exploratory talks on a coalition with Chancellor and chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, CDU, Angela Merkel in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Following the national elections on Sept. 22, 2013, Merkel is still in negotiations for a coalition partner for her third term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    German Social Democratic Party, SPD, leader Sigmar Gabriel, center, and his delegation walk to exploratory talks on a coalition with Chancellor and chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, CDU, Angela Merkel in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Following the national elections on Sept. 22, 2013, Merkel is still in negotiations for a coalition partner for her third term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)  (The Associated Press)

  • German Social Democratic Party, SPD, leader Sigmar Gabriel, center, and his delegation walk to exploratory talks on a coalition with Chancellor and chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, CDU, Angela Merkel in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Following the national elections on Sept. 22, 2013, Merkel is still in negotiations for a coalition partner for her third term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    German Social Democratic Party, SPD, leader Sigmar Gabriel, center, and his delegation walk to exploratory talks on a coalition with Chancellor and chairwoman of the Christian Democrats, CDU, Angela Merkel in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Following the national elections on Sept. 22, 2013, Merkel is still in negotiations for a coalition partner for her third term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)  (The Associated Press)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and the center-left Social Democratic Party she defeated in last month's election have moved a decisive step closer to forming a new government.

The German news agency dpa quoted SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday as saying the leadership of the party would recommend to members this weekend that it enter into formal coalition talks with Merkel's Union bloc.

The head of the Christian Social Union, Horst Seehofer, told reporters the talks could begin Wednesday — the day after Germany's new Parliament meets for the first time.

Merkel's bloc of the Christian Democrats and the Bavaria-only CSU won 41.5 percent of the vote in Sept. 22 elections but fell five seats short of a majority.

The Social Democrats won 25.7 percent of the vote.