Merkel party ally urges delay in Opel decision: report

FRANKFURT Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:47am EDT

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A member of German chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party has pushed for a delay of the decision about the fate of General Motors' GM.UL European unit Opel until after Germany's federal elections, a newspaper said.

"I think it would make sense to delay the decision until after the federal elections," Hans-Peter Friedrich, conservative parliamentary deputy floor leader, told German daily Die Welt.

"An objective decision could only be made with difficulty in this heated atmosphere in light of the election campaigns," he was quoted as saying in an article to be published on Monday.

Talks to sell Opel have been running for months and loom as a hot political issue ahead of German elections on September 27, because of the state support required for the eventual buyer.

Friedrich's comments come after a senior member of Merkel's party criticized her government on Thursday for committing so strongly to Magna International's MGa.TO Russian-backed bid for Opel -- a first sign of criticism from within her own camp.

Merkel and her coalition partners, the SPD, have little incentive to change their stance before the federal vote.

But if the Opel saga drags on beyond the election, the readiness to consider other options could rise, particularly if Merkel returns to power in a center-right coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP).

German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Thursday that money provided to the carmaker by Berlin and the federal states that host Opel plants should last until around January.

But Die Welt newspaper said that Opel could run out of money before then, due to salary payments and restructuring costs.

(Reporting by Eva Kuehnen; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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