Belgium risks political chaos if talks fail: Socialists
The Belgian politician leading marathon talks aimed at forming a new government warned Monday of "political chaos" if Flemish and francophone parties fail to agree.
Socialist francophone leader Elio Di Rupo offered to stand down on Sunday after the talks between the two sides broke down, but King Albert II refused and asked him to resume his role as lead negotiator.
The seven-party talks have dragged on for nearly three months since Flemish nationalists, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), triumphed in Flanders in the June legislative elections.
"The parties that refuse a balanced compromise will plunge our country into the unknown, or even political chaos," Di Rupo told a press conference.
The main stumbling blocks include the future of francophone suburbs of Brussels that lie within Dutch-speaking Flanders, the refinancing of the national capital region and a new federal financing law.
Di Rupo, whose Socialist party came out on top in the French-speaking Wallonia region in June, said he hoped that "reason will finally prevail."
Should Di Rupo succeed in forming a government, he would be Belgium's first francophone head of government since Paul Vanden Boeynants, a Brussels Christian Democrat who was prime minister from October 1978 to April 1979.
A country of 10.5 million people, 60 percent Flemish, Belgium already has heavily devolved regional governments, divided along linguistic lines.
© 2010 AFP