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Leaders of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) Angela Merkel (C) and Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavaria State Premier Horst Seehofer are seen on a balcony of German Parliamentary Society offices before the exploratory talks about forming a new coalition government held by CDU/CSU in Berlin, Germany, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

(reuters_tickers)

By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to meet with possible coalition partners on Sunday to kickstart the process of forming a government after talks got off to a rocky start last week, media reported.

Merkel, whose conservative alliance came first but lost seats in the Sept. 24 national election, is trying to forge a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmental Greens that is untested at a national level.

The process is proving tricky, with disputes about climate and immigration policy played out in German media over the weekend after what one negotiator described as a "big clash" between participants on Thursday.

Bild am Sonntag newspaper said Merkel would try to "rescue" the talks by meeting with Horst Seehofer, who heads the conservative Bavarian CSU party, two officials from the Greens and FDP leader Christian Lindner at an undisclosed location.

The political mood remained stormy.

Bild am Sonntag said Lindner, for instance, had argued that he should be allowed to bring a second FDP official to the high-level meeting since the Greens were also bringing both Cem Ozdemir and Katrin Goering-Eckardt.

The exploratory talks are due to continue Monday after the three sides failed to reach agreement on immigration and climate issues during an 11-hour session on Thursday.

The possible partners in a so-called Jamaica coalition - a name chosen because the parties' black, yellow and green colours mirror those of the Jamaican flag - are at odds over ending coal production to lower carbon dioxide emissions and migrant caps.

Many conservatives want to take a harder line on immigration, blaming their election setback on Merkel's decision to allow in more than a million migrants in 2015 and 2016. They want to limit refugee numbers, but the Greens reject such a cap.

Other issues such as pensions and labour regulations - which could be on the agenda on Monday - appear less contentious.

The three blocs are also moving toward agreement on the issue of legalising marijuana through licensed distributors, such as pharmacies, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.

Fritz Becker, head of the German pharmacists association, said his group was ready to take on the job, and had let the parties know its position.

Better to legalise marijuana with "consultation about risks and side effects, good customer service and clean merchandise," he told the newspaper.

Alexander Lambsdorff, deputy leader of the FDP parliamentary group, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that exploratory talks on forming a coalition were in "a difficult phase" but said that was not unexpected at such an early stage in the negotiations.

"Of course there will still be different interpretations and the occasional rumble," he said.

He said the FDP and Greens had "no choice but to talk to each other" given the current circumstances in the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament.

"In the end, everyone will have to see if they can support the result. No one will be served if a coalition emerges that is at odds for four years," he told the newspaper.

The Social Democrats, junior partner to the conservatives over the last four years, have vowed to stay in opposition.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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