Belgium's rebel prince in trouble over Libya links

7th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's unruly Prince Laurent ran into fresh trouble on Thursday as news emerged that the king's youngest son met Libyan diplomats last week without permission from the government.

The 47-year-old already angered King Albert II and the prime minister for visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony, last month despite pleas from the throne and the government for him to postpone the trip.

After berating Laurent over his trip to the DR Congo, Prime Minister Yves Leterme summoned the prince for a one-on-one meeting on Friday to explain his ties with Libya.

The controversy has fuelled a debate over the allowance paid to the royal family, with the government warning that Prince Laurent could lose his 300,000-euro (428,000-dollar) a year paycheck if he fails to rein himself in.

According to the newspaper La Libre Belgique, Prince Laurent sought in recent years to launch projects with one of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's sons to combat desertification. The two eventually had a falling out and the prince lost his investment.

Last week, the prince disobeyed his government again when he decided to meet two Libyan diplomats who had defected from the Kadhafi regime, the newspaper said.

For the second week in a row, Leterme publicly rebuked the prince before the country's parliament, saying that his unilateral actions posed a serious threat to Belgium's credibility.

"A number of his activities and the way they are organised are not compatible with the status of a prince in Belgium," Leterme said.

"I will tell him about the new rules he must strictly follow and I will repeat to him that his activities are carried out in an unacceptable manner," he said.

Prince Laurent, known for his penchant for violating speed limits in the streets of Brussels, has lashed out at the "stupid Flemish press" and a close adviser to the king over the scandals, revealing tensions within the palace.

The prince, 12th in line to the throne, said his visit to the DR Congo was related to his work in his association for the defence of domestic and wild animals, the Prince Laurent Foundation, and not a political trip.

© 2011 AFP

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