Ireland's two largest political parties have agreed to meet early next week for talks on how one might support the other to form a minority government and avoid a second general election.
The smaller of the two, Fianna Fail, on Thursday rejected an offer from the Fine Gael party of acting prime minister Enda Kenny for a grand coalition between the historical center-right rivals.
That leaves a minority government, in which one party abstains in key parliamentary votes to allow the other party to govern, as the only realistic way to avoid a repeat of the Feb. 26 general election.
But both sides say the details of any such agreement would be crucial in determining its viability.
The two parties on Saturday published a statement saying the talks would "discuss how a viable minority government would work."
Parliament is due to sit on Thursday to attempt for the third time to elect a new prime minister.
Kenny's Fine Gael would be the heavy favorite to lead a minority government as it has 50 seats to Fianna Fail's 43 in the 158-seat chamber. But both would need the support of independent deputies and Fianna Fail could theoretically edge ahead if it secures enough of them.