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Germany's Merkel declines to endorse Bavarian state premier as successor

BERLIN, July 14 (Reuters) - Angela Merkel, asked if she thought Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder was a strong candidate to succeed her as German chancellor, declined to comment directly, saying only that Bavaria has a good leader.

Merkel was speaking at a joint news conference with Soeder after attending a meeting of the wealthy southern state’s cabinet in a castle in the middle of a lake. Soeder and Markus Laschet, premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, are seen as leading candidates for the conservative chancellor ticket.

Merkel’s visit was widely presented as a symbolic coronation of Soeder, but Merkel said she would accept invitations from other state premiers. (Reporting by Thomas Escritt Editing by Michelle Martin)

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