Belgium begins new coalition talks to end deadlock
Belgium's politicians resumed talks on Tuesday in a bid to end a more than year-long political deadlock which has tested the unity of the nation split between its Dutch and French speakers.
Elio Di Rupo, head of the francophone Socialists and favourite to lead the country, met with caretaker prime minister Yves Leterme to discuss Belgium's finances.
Leterme has been overseeing affairs since legislative elections in June 2010 failed to lead to the formation of a new government.
The crisis has seen Belgium split between the Dutch-speaking Flemish population in the north which is demanding more autonomy for the region and the French-speaking south.
In the coming days Di Rupo will lead talks with the heads of eight parties who agreed last month to hold negotiations without separatist movement the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).
The breakthrough was reached after the Christian Democratic CD&V in Flanders decided to break ranks with the Dutch-speaking region's biggest party.
The announcement followed an unusually sombre warning from King Albert II, who said the deadlock threatened the country's economic and social well-being with negative repercussions for the European project as a whole.
Belgium has been without a government for 429 days, securing it the dubious world record as the nation without an official administration for the longest time.
© 2011 AFP