German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened a third and decisive round of exploratory talks in Berlin on Thursday on forging a coalition with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD).

The SPD was playing hard-to-get ahead of the meeting, pressing Ms Merkel’s conservative camp to offer a sweetener to the left: a legally mandated minimum hourly wage that would boost the incomes of many Germans in low-skills jobs.

If they find enough common ground, leaders of the SPD and Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) ally are expected to recommend to their parties that they launch formal negotiations to form a so-called grand coalition.

The meeting with Ms Merkel is the last scheduled one before SPD leaders consult with their own supporters on Sunday.

Commentators said there would be pressure to finalize the outline of a deal within the four hours scheduled for the talks, since Ms Merkel had an evening appointment with Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council.

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