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BERLIN (Reuters) - Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) wants talks on forming a new German government to focus on security and curbing immigration, a senior party official said, after sharp gains by a far-right party in Sunday's federal election.
The CSU and its national sister party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), both pled support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which became the first far-right party to enter parliament in half a century.
Merkel's conservative CDU-CSU bloc has begun coalition talks with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens but the parties have different views on a range of issues including migration, energy, taxation and Europe.
The CSU's Markus Soeder signalled that his party wants to shift to the right to lessen the appeal of AfD to its voters ahead of a state election in Bavaria next year, further complicating Merkel's plans for a broad three-way coalition.
"The CSU is facing an existential challenge," Soeder said late on Wednesday, adding that a loss of more than 10 percentage points to 38.8 percent of the Bavarian vote was "very unsatisfactory".
"We want upper limits (on immigration) and security issues to be at the centre of the coalition talks. If we don't send a clear signal on this, then we'll have problems in the future," Soeder said.
Failure to tackle immigration concerns could harm Germany's support for further European integration, he added.
"Most people are wondering if Germany even exists as it once was. If we don't respond to this mood, then we’ll have difficulty selling the idea of Europe. The multinational idea can only work if there is a firm national anchor and a regional base," Soeder told an awards ceremony in Munich.
Pressure is growing on CSU leader and Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer to resign after the election setback, but Soeder said the party had agreed to focus on coalition talks for now, and to defer personnel matters until mid-November.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Gareth Jones)