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Berlin minister quits under pressure over Stasi past

BERLIN (Reuters) - A leftist coalition in Berlin's city hall that could be a model for a federal government later this year faced a crisis on Monday after a minister quit because of his past in East Germany's Stasi security police.

Andrej Holm, an academic who had hidden the fact he served in the notorious communist police before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, resigned as deputy housing minister on Monday after Mayor Michael Mueller had called for him to be fired on Saturday.

Holm was appointed by the Left party, which along with Mueller's Social Democrats (SPD) and the environmentalist Greens formed the first such three-way coalition at the state level only five weeks ago.

The Left party has both former eastern communists and western radicals among its members. Some analysts believe could join the SPD and Greens in a federal government after the next general election in September.

"The SPD and Greens have made it clear to me that they won't support me politically as deputy minister," Holm said in a statement. "Mr Mueller has publicly demanded that I be fired and thus terminated possible cooperation in a coalition. The coalition itself is at a crossroads."

Holm had concealed details of his Stasi past in his application for a job at Berlin's Humboldt University in 2005.

When this became known, he became a lightening rod for the Left party, which is strong in the formerly communist east. Demands he step down or be fired over his work for the Stasi as an 18-year-old split the city and its government coalition.

Many leaders in the Left party were appalled that Mueller had attacked their junior minister.

"There are many differences of opinion in the coalition and a need to clear certain things up," said Katrin Lompscher, the Left party's construction minister. "I regret his resignation and there's a need for the coalition to talk about this."

The three leftist parties could have had a majority in the federal parliament after the 2013 election but the SPD and Greens ruled out such an alliance with the Left.

That taboo has been gradually fading and Berlin is the first state where the three-way coalition has been tested.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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