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German Chancellor Angela Merkel during news conference at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that openness, not populism, polarisation or isolation, was the answer to the world's challenges of globalisation and digitalisation.

"I think that, a quarter of a century after German unification, after the end of the Cold War, a new historical era will perhaps be replaced by another one," Merkel said in a speech to church leaders in Wuerzburg.

Even though some were dreaming of a "return to a small world", she said the right answer was not isolation but openness.

Merkel did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump by name, but her comments were in sharp contrast to his promises to "put America first", pull the United States out of multilateral trade deals and clamp down on illegal immigration, not least by building a wall on the Mexican border.

"We won't get anywhere by trying to solve problems with polarisation and populism," she said. "We've got to show that we're committed to the basic principles of our nation."

Trump has said Merkel made a "catastrophic mistake" by allowing more than a million refugees, mostly Muslims fleeing war in the Middle East, to come to Germany.

Merkel greeted his election in November by offering to work closely with him on the basis of the values of "democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity, regardless of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political inclination".

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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