Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched on Monday a second round of exploratory talks with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) to consider forging a new coalition government.
Merkel's conservative bloc could still need a third round of exploratory talks with both the SPD and the Greens before starting formal negotiations to form a coalition, said Horst Seehofer, who heads up the chancellor's Bavarian-based ally, the Christian Social Union.
Monday's meeting is expected to focus on major areas of differences between Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left SPD.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles said a central theme of the talks would be her party's demand for the introduction of a national minimum wage of €8.5 an hour.
"There should be no misunderstanding," she said. "We are talking about a comprehensive legal minimum wage of €8.50 in eastern and western [Germany]."
Merkel also plans another round of talks with the Greens before announcing which party she will launch formal negotiations with.
Her Christian Democrats (CDU) returned as the biggest force in parliament in the 22 September general election.
She needs a new coalition partner, after her ally for the last four years, the Free Democrats, failed to win any parliamentary seats and the CDU/CSU bloc fell just short of securing an absolute majority.
Signs of compromise from both the SPD and the CDU/CSU in key areas emerged over the weekend, despite the resistance in parts of the SPD to forming a so-called grand coalition along the lines of Merkel's 2005-2009 government.
Many analysts and CDU members believe another grand coalition is also the chancellor's preferred option.