Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to hold her ground in a television debate ahead of German elections, under attack from her Social Democrat (SPD) rival on refugee policy, ties with Turkey and her handling of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Merkel was some 14 points ahead of Martin Schulz in opinion polls before the debate. A survey by Infratest Dimap for ARD television showed her overall performance was viewed as more convincing by 55 percent, compared to 35 percent for Schulz.

Three weeks from voting day, center-left contender Schulz went on the offensive from the outset of the 97-minute debate - his only televised duel with Merkel, who looked rattled at times but showed enough authority to win.

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