German center-left leaders push for talks with Merkel

Leaders of Germany's Social Democrats are lobbying hard for party members to vote this weekend for opening coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Union bloc.

Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz was traveling Wednesday through the states of Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate to seek approval at a party convention Sunday to open formal negotiations with Merkel's conservatives.

A rejection would likely force Merkel to try a minority government on her own, or set Germany on course for new elections.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told Bild newspaper that "Europe is a place of hope and a strong voice of freedom and democracy in an increasingly aggressive world." He said that if his party renewed its coalition with Merkel it could ensure Germany worked with France to "renew and strengthen Europe."