Martin Schulz resigns as Germany's Social Democrat leader after foreign minister rebuff

Martin Schulz has quit as chairman of Germany's Social Democrats with immediate effect, saying it is time for a "renewal" of the centre-left party.

The move came after he on Friday abandoned his plan to become the country's foreign minister in a new coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, following pressure from within the party.

He told reporters the party's leadership had unanimously nominated his choice for a successor, parliamentary caucus leader Andrea Nahles.

She will have to be approved by a party congress on April 22, he said.

The turmoil at the top of the Social Democrats has been a major distraction as its leaders have been lobbying for the party to approve the new coalition agreement with Mrs Merkel's conservative bloc.

It is being put to a ballot of the Social Democrats' 460,000 members.

If members reject the coalition, Mrs Merkel's only realistic options would be to form a minority government or seek fresh elections.

Mr Schulz said the coalition agreement was "70%" Social Democratic policy and urged party members to bring "the personnel debate to an end" with his resignation and concentrate on passing the deal.

"This is a good agreement," he said.

The party chose deputy leader and Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz as the new interim head until a permanent chairman is elected in April.

Mr Scholz will support Ms Nahles at the party congress.

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