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German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during a news conference after visiting the state parliament in Dresden, Germany August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

(reuters_tickers)

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hundreds of far-right protesters called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to resign as she met regional lawmakers of her Christian Democratic (CDU) party in the eastern state of Saxony.

The anti-Islam PEGIDA movement organised the protest against Merkel and her decision in 2015 to welcome about one million refugees mainly from Muslim countries. Merkel's move caused a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and helped lift the far right into the national parliament after elections last year.

They chanted "Merkel must go!" and "Get lost" as she arrived in Dresden in the formerly communist east of Germany where far right views are more widespread than in the west of the country.

There were also counter-protesters in the vicinity but no clashes or other incidents had been reported so far, a police spokesman said. He declined to give figures of the protesters.

Merkel has repeatedly defended her decision to admit hundreds of thousands of migrants as a humanitarian necessity, but has since vowed to prevent a repeat of such a situation and to battle the root causes of migration into Europe.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party benefited from migration concerns as it became the third largest party in the national parliament last year and complicated Merkel's efforts to re-establish a stable governing coalition.

Saxony will vote for a new state parliament in September 2019 and polls suggest that the AfD could become the second-strongest party, with the CDU likely to come in first.

Merkel was expected to address reporters later on Thursday after her meeting with CDU lawmakers in Dresden.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Reuters