Merkel clinches "grand coalition" deal with SPD

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By Andreas Rinke and Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD) on Wednesday that rolls back decade-old reforms of the German welfare state but preserves Berlin's strict approach towards struggling European partners. The result forced the popular 59-year-old Protestant pastor's daughter from East Germany into negotiations with the arch-rival SPD, with whom she ruled in an awkward "grand coalition" during her first term from 2005-2009. The SPD is still smarting from that experience, and its leadership has agreed to put the new deal to a vote of the party's 474,000 card-carrying members, adding an element of uncertainty to Merkel's goal of having a new government in place by Christmas. "We entered negotiations with very different ideas, and that is why things took a little time," Merkel told a news conference, sitting between SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel and Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union.