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Austria's Kurz to launch coalition talks with Greens

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz announced Monday that his party will enter coalition talks with the environmentalist Greens. If negotiations succeed, they will likely produce a very different government from his previous alliance with the far-right.

Kurz, 33, announced the start of what he called a "challenging process" of negotiations after lengthy exploratory talks. He wouldn't be drawn on how long it would take. Kurz's People's Party emerged as by far the biggest in parliament from an election in late September. The Greens, who have not previously been part of a federal government, saw their support soar and returned to parliament after a two-year absence.

Kurz acknowledged that "creativity" will be needed to put together a coalition with the Greens. "The Greens have strong positions on the environment and climate that, in part, are not easy for us, but for which they were elected — we have to recognize that," he told reporters in Vienna.

"Equally, we as the People's Party have clear positions on migration and security policy, business location and tax policy, for which we were elected." The Greens already backed formal negotiations on Sunday. Green leader Werner Kogler said that "of course this is a risk, but we want to attempt this step."

The two parties have a combined 97 seats in Austria's 183-seat parliament. Kurz led a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party for 17 months until May, when a video showing then-Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering favors to a purported Russian investor prompted Kurz to pull the plug.

Parliament then ousted Kurz in a no-confidence vote. Austria has since been run by a non-partisan interim government under Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein. The Freedom Party said after the election, in which it suffered significant losses, that it preferred to go into opposition to rebuild itself.

Kurz could have sought a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, who also performed badly. But that would have revived an unloved coalition that has frequently run Austria and risked undermining his image as a fresh face bringing change.

Moulson reported from Berlin.

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