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Germany's Merkel says she has not changed course on migrant policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives to sign a book of condolence for former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the embassy of Israel in Berlin, Germany, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler

BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Saturday that she had not reversed course on her policy on migrants, two weeks after she said she wished she could turn back the clock to better prepare Germany for last year's influx.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) suffered electoral routs in two state elections last month as voters rejected her open-door migrant policy just a year ahead of a federal election.

Taking some of the blame for her party's drubbing, Merkel struck a conciliatory tone and said she would if she could "turn back the time by many, many years" to prepare Germany for the influx.

"I have not changed my policy, but made policy," Merkel told the Saturday edition of the Saechsische Zeitung. "I see no change of course other than coherent work for many, many months."

Merkel told the paper she had been working since last summer "on solutions which are good for Germany and for Europe". This includes protecting Europe's external borders and fighting the causes of migrant flight from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

In addition, Germany has had to bring order to the process of dealing with the influx of refugees, she said. "Our aim is that a situation like last year does not happen again and in fact we have made great progress over the past 12 months."

On Friday, Germany revised down the number of migrants it took in last year to 890,000 from a previous estimate of 1.1 million. It said around 210,000 people had so far come to Germany to seek asylum in 2016.

Merkel said the aim was now to push ahead with sending back those who had no right to asylum in Germany, as well as agreeing legal quotas to distribute refugees among European Union member states in an appropriate way.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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