Merkel critic holding out for cap on refugees Germany admits

Merkel critic holding out for cap on refugees Germany admits

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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's most prominent domestic critic in the migrant crisis says he will stick to what he says is a "core" demand for a cap on the number of refugees that Germany accepts each year.

Horst Seehofer is Bavaria's governor and the leader of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian arm of Merkel's Union bloc. Seehofer has long criticized Merkel's welcoming approach to migrants last year and is pressing for an annual refugee cap in Germany of 200,000, a call Merkel so far has rejected.

A national election is expected next September, and the dispute has been overshadowing conservative preparations for it. Seehofer told Sunday's Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he hopes to resolve the argument this month but said: "I won't give up this core element just so that there is harmony."

"I won't sell the soul of the CSU," he was quoted as saying.

Germany saw 890,000 asylum-seekers arrive last year. The influx has slowed drastically, with only 213,000 newcomers arriving in this year's first nine months.

Seehofer said he was "satisfied" with that development, but insisted there needs to be "a clear limit and firm rules" in case an influx like last year's is repeated.

Merkel — who hasn't yet said whether she will seek a fourth term next year — didn't address the issue at a conference Saturday of the Union's youth wing, which rejected a Bavarian call for her own Christian Democratic Union to ballot its members on a refugee cap.

In the Bild am Sonntag interview, Seehofer indicated that he will ultimately give up one of his jobs as governor or party leader, though he didn't specify which.

He said Germany's next Parliament will probably have seven parties rather than the current five, and that "to be able to stand up to the others, we need the CSU leader and other strong forces in Berlin."

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