Schroeder says may not be part of next government

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder suggested on Tuesday he may not be part of the next government but said he would work to ensure its success.

One day after senior members of his own Social Democrats (SPD) said Schroeder was ready to step down to allow Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel to front a "grand coalition" of SPD and conservatives, the chancellor said:

"We'll have to wait and see if (the grand coalition) works," at a speech to an industry group in Berlin. "I will in any case work towards its success. That's how I understand ... one's role if one is not to be a member of the next government."

In his speech he also criticized an earlier speaker for painting an alarming picture of Germany's economy.

"Perhaps you wanted to scare me, but you can't do that any more," Schroeder said with a smile. "We have pointed the tracks in the right direction and others must now work to make sure the train gets underway," he added later on, reports Reuters.

The agreement, breaking three weeks of stalemate after an inconclusive federal election, should lead to the formation of a government in mid- to late-November.

Merkel also faced sobering comments on Tuesday from leaders of the Christian Social Union, conservative allies of her Christian Democrats. They made clear they expected to be involved in decisions at an early stage even if she was formally head of the government.

"The decisions will be made by the party leaders and the leaders of the parliamentary groups," said CSU chief Edmund Stoiber, set to become economy and technology minister.

To become chancellor, Merkel needs the support of 308 of the 614 members of the lower house in a parliamentary vote.

As her conservative group has 226 seats, she would need a further 82 supporters from the SPD, just over a third of its 222 lawmakers, assuming opposition parties don't support her.

In a Monday vote on whether to start formal coalition talks with Merkel, about a third of the SPD leadership abstained or voted no.

"I assume that not all SPD votes will go to Merkel because there are great reservations," Family Minister Renate Schmidt said on Tuesday on Bayerische Rundfunk radio, noting that Merkel stood for pro-market policies her party had rejected, informs IOL.


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