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Merkel wants 'reasonable package' to keep Britain in EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits to give a statement during the annual Christian Social Union (CSU) Epiphany meeting in the southern Bavarian resort of Wildbad Kreuth near Munich, Germany January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

WILDBAD KREUTH, Germany (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she wanted talks to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union to produce a “reasonable package” that would keep Britain in the bloc.

EU leaders have given officials until February to sort out the details of a deal.

“Throughout these next weeks, it is especially important that we make decisions in our own interest in order to achieve a reasonable package that will allow Great Britain to remain a part of the European Union,” Merkel said before a dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron in southern Germany.

“But ultimately, this is of course the decision of British citizens,” she added.

In a speech to German lawmakers last month, Merkel called Britain a “natural ally”, stressing its importance to Europe’s internal free market and its weight in foreign policy debates. She said she was “confident” a solution would be found.

Cameron has promised to secure better terms for Britain before holding a referendum on continued membership. Last month, he gave his strongest hint yet that he would hold the vote this year.

A poll last month indicated that Britons’ support for remaining within the EU would drop significantly if he did not secure measures to restrict benefits for migrant workers and to ensure London’s financial dominance is not challenged by closer integration of the single currency zone, which Britain has not joined.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Kevin Liffey