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Germany's Ruling Coalition Agrees on Steinmeier as President

FILE - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talks at a hotel in Vienna, Austria.

Germany's ruling coalition is backing Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the country's next president, succeeding Joachim Gauck, whose five-year term ends in February.

On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) agreed to back Steinmeier, Germany's most popular politician, who was nominated by his Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The third party in the coalition, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), supported the decision soon after.

A 60-year-old political veteran, Steinmeier would likely have enough support to win a vote among the 1,260 delegates from Germany's 16 federal states on February 12.

Party leaders have been wrangling for months over whom to nominate as a potential successor to Gauck, a 76-year-old former pastor from former communist East Germany who is stepping down due to his advanced age.

While normally very diplomatic, Steinmeier strongly criticized U.S. President-elect Donald Trump during election campaign, saying the prospect of a Trump presidency was a "frightening" one for the world.

He warned a day after Trump's election that transatlantic relations would become "more difficult."

"I think we must expect that American foreign policy will become less predictable for us and we must expect that the United States will be more inclined to make decisions on its own," Steinmeier said.

He also compared Trump to a "hate preacher", saying he had much in common with "fear-mongers" in Germany's right-wing populist AfD party as well as advocates of Britain's exit from the EU.

The German presidency is a largely ceremonial role, meant to transcend party politics and serve as a moral standard bearer for the nation.