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Rajoy begins two-day negotiations to form gov't

MADRID, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy begins two days of meetings with leaders of Spain's main political parties on Tuesday which could decide the country's political future.

Although Rajoy's right-wing People's Party (PP) won the June 26 general election, claiming 14 more seats than in December last year, the 137 seats the PP have in the Spanish Congress still falls short of the 176 needed for a majority in the chamber.

Rajoy has already held talks with minority parties Canaria Coalition, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and Catalan Nationalist Party (ERC) as he looks for support, with ERC and PNV refusing to back him in an investiture debate.

On Tuesday, Rajoy is meeting with Pablo Iglesias, the leader of left-wing Podemos party and Ciudadanos' leader Albert Rivera, before holding talks with the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday.

Iglesias, whose party won 71 seats in the general election, has already ruled out supporting a Rajoy-led government, but if center-right party Ciudadanos are willing to support Rajoy, that would give his party 169 seats in Congress, just seven short of a majority.

Acting Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo commented on Monday that the PP and Ciudadanos had many things "in common," but Rivera is thought to favor a three-way pact including the PSOE and has also said that although he would support a PP-led government, he would not support Rajoy as prime minister.

An agreement between the PP and the PSOE (who have 85 seats) would mean Rajoy wouldn't need pacts with other parties, but in the opening speech at Saturday's meeting of his party's federal committee on Saturday, Sanchez made his position clear, commenting that Rajoy, "should look for other allies," and "not count on us."

Rajoy hopes that the fact nobody in Spain wants a third general election within a year -- a possibility he called a "bad joke" on Sunday -- can help him to at least persuade Rivera and Sanchez to abstain, rather than to vote against him in an investiture debate and thus allow him to form a minority PP government.

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