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The leader of Germany's center-left Social Democrats sought his party's support Thursday to open talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on extending their governing coalition, or at least backing a minority government.

Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, told his party conference that he wants the continental bloc to move in the direction of a US-style federal union.

It reinforced its refusal to join a new coalition after Merkel's talks with two smaller parties collapsed last month.

Schulz's center-left party suffered a historic defeat in the German general elections in September this year.

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"The SPD is needed for a just and innovative Europe", he said. Schulz was the President of the European Parliament from 2011 until January 2017, when he returned to domestic politics.

'If we don't change course, if we don't strengthen Europe in very practical and concrete ways, then these forces will win, ' he warned.

However, some members - including the party's youth wing - want to specifically rule out another coalition, leaving only a minority government or a new election as options.

The Social Democrats' leadership insisted the party would go into opposition after a disastrous election result in September.

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Schulz apologised for the poor result but said he could not "turn back the clock", vowing to drive a rejuvenation of the SPD so "we can do a better job".

The Social Democrat said that any move towards a federal Europe would require a change to the union's economic policy as promoted by Merkel and her staff.

Whatever the outcome of any eventual talks with Merkel, it will have to satisfy the SPD party base, because members will ultimately vote to approve or scrap any coalition agreement.

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