Head of Merkel's FDP allies offers to quit: party source

BERLIN Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:58am EST

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The head of Angela Merkel's Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partners, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, offered to step down as party chief on Monday despite a stronger-than-expected result for the FDP in a weekend state election, a party source said.

The source said Roesler, who leadership has been criticized because of the party's slump in national opinion polls to as low as 2 percent, told a party meeting he was ready to step aside in favor of FDP parliamentary leader Rainer Bruederle.

There was no indication that Roesler's colleagues were ready to accept his resignation offer.

The FDP defied forecasts that it would be ejected from the state assembly in Lower Saxony in Sunday's vote and took 9.9 percent. But that was partly due to Merkel's own Christian Democrats (CDU) splitting their ballots to save the FDP.

(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Noah Barkin)

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