By GEIR MOULSON
BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that she's still optimistic about the chances of disparate parties allying to form Germany's next government after an initial round of talks produced little visible progress.
Germany's Sept. 24 election left Merkel trying to form an untried coalition of her conservative Union bloc, the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens.
Over the past 10 days, negotiators struggled to find common ground on issues including immigration and refugees, climate protection and agriculture. While Merkel has kept a low profile, prominent figures from other parties have repeatedly sniped at each other.
Merkel said there are still "difficult" discussions ahead — "but I still believe that we can tie the ends together if we make an effort, and in a way that allows every partner to emphasize its identity and something good comes out of it for the whole country."
The Free Democrats' leader, Christian Lindner, said the parties have now set out their differing positions "and in the second phase, we now face the task of building bridges."
"It is an opportunity if such different parties can agree on what is good for our country, but it is also difficult," said Greens co-leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt.
Fellow Green Juergen Trittin was less diplomatic, telling ARD television earlier Friday that in four of 12 policy areas "we haven't managed to agree what we don't agree on."
"We understand that others need their priorities, but we see that others apparently believe they can do this with the motto, 'we won't give anything away,'" he said. "And we won't get it done that way."
Merkel governed for the last four years in a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, Germany's second-biggest party. The Social Democrats are adamant that they will go into opposition after a disastrous election result, leaving a combination with the Free Democrats and Greens as the only politically feasible option.
Weeks or even months of haggling are likely to be needed, along with ballots of the Greens' and Free Democrats' members on an eventual deal.
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