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Far-right's rise won't change my stance on refugees: Merkel

By Geir Moulson

German chancellor Angela Merkel has defended an election campaign which left her conservative bloc significantly weakened despite finishing in first place, as she embarked on what could be a lengthy quest to form a new government.

Mrs Merkel said the success of the nationalist, anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which finished third in Sunday's election, will not influence her Christian Democratic Union's foreign, European and refugee policies.

She once more defended her decision to let in nearly 900,000 migrants and refugees, saying Germany would not again face the humanitarian crisis which led to it. She said: "I can't see what we should have done differently.

"I thought this campaign through well."

The centre-left Social Democratic Party has been Mrs Merkel's partner in a "grand coalition" since 2013. The party finished second, but leader Martin Schulz said its tremendously weak showing would require the Social Democrats "to be a strong opposition" going forward.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has no tradition of minority governments, and Mrs Merkel has made clear she does not want to go down that route.

This would be a tall order in any case, as her bloc only holds 246 of the new parliament's 709 seats.

The most politically plausible option so far is a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens. The combination, called a 'Jamaica' coalition because the parties' colours match those of the Caribbean nation's flag, has never been tried before in a national government.

Mrs Merkel said she will seek talks with the two parties, as well as with the Social Democrats. There is unlikely to be much movement before a state election on October 15 in Lower Saxony, one of Germany's most populous states.

The chancellor said in Berlin: "It is important that Germany gets a good, stable government. All parties ... have a responsibility that we get a stable government."

Mrs Merkel will have to bridge differences between the Free Democrats and Greens.

AfD won entrance to parliament for the first time after a campaign that centred on harsh criticism of Mrs Merkel and the migrant influx.

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