Belgium must fix government, 2012 budget this weekend: PM

26th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's feuding politicians must agree on a new government and a deficit-cutting budget before the weekend is out, caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme said after a credit rating downgrade on Friday.

"It is blindingly obvious, we have to send a very clear signal... preferably before the markets open" in the early hours of Monday, Leterme told RTL television moments after a credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poor's left the country more exposed the eurozone debt crisis.

Leterme said the decision by S&P was "not entirely unexpected," but said it amounted to "bad news" at a time when his expected successor Elio Di Rupo had thrown in the towel on efforts to patch up a coalition that stradles the country's linguistic differences, only for King Albert II to ask him to think again.

"We must act now," Leterme emphasised, in a message to French-speaking and Flemish politicians.

He said that Di Rupo and colleagues from five other parties negotiating a new coalition "are completely conscious of the stakes... the discussions must reach a conclusion this evening, overnight, tomorrow..."

© 2011 AFP

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