Senior officials of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party met with representatives of their present coalition partners on Saturday before the party decides next week on who it will cooperate with in the run-up to the early parliamentary election in September.

"We had talks with all political parties which were in a coalition with the HDZ in the previous parliament. The talks were open, we discussed our cooperation so far and considered possible modalities of further cooperation. The party's bodies will analyse all this and make a decision next week, which will be published," HDZ official Davor Ivo Stier told the press.

Asked if the HDZ was considering cooperation with the Croatian Conservative Party of MEP Ruza Tomasic, Stier said that the HDZ was having a lot of discussions "with other forces, with independent experts who can contribute," but stressed that the HDZ's bodies would assess what kind of cooperation could lead to a victory at the polls on September 11.

He noted that the HDZ respected the procedures in other parties too, adding that their bodies needed to make similar decisions.

The secretary-general of the Croatian Party of Rights - Dr Ante Starcevic (HSP AS), Pero Coric, said he got the impression that the HDZ wanted to continue cooperating with his party, but stressed that the HSP AS was not interested only in cooperation for the forthcoming election but in long-term political cooperation the two parties had achieved at five previous elections.

"Our aim is to win the parliamentary election, as well as local and European elections. We discussed modalities of cooperation in all these elections," Coric said. He added that the HSP AS was counting on at least three seats in the next parliament, as many as they held in the outgoing parliament.

Coric said that they wanted to reach such cooperation as would secure them as many seats in parliament as possible in order to prevent the return to power of Zoran Milanovic and his Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Asked if he would agree to be part of a coalition that would include the Conservative Party of Ruza Tomasic, Coric said that this had not been discussed, but added that it would not be serious to talk about "someone who is only vegetating on the political scene ... and whose political rhetoric is not credible."

The leader of the Hrast party, Drazen Ilcic, said that the meeting thoroughly analysed the situation in the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition, expressing hope that communication between the coalition partners would be improved in the next term.

Ilcic said that they did not discuss running in the forthcoming election together. "This was only the first meeting and we will have more specific talks in the middle of next week," he said.

Croatian Christian Democratic Party (HDS) leader Goran Dodig said that the meeting expressed "a mutual desire to continue our cooperation."

The HDZ's main bodies -- the Presidency, Main Committee and National Council -- will meet on Monday to analyse modalities under which the party would run in the election.

According to unofficial sources in the HDZ leadership, the HDZ is likely to continue cooperating with the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and the HDS, while further cooperation with the HSP AS, Hrast and the Zagorje Democratic Party (ZDS) is unlikely.

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