King asks Leterme to resume talks

20th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

20 August 2007, BRUSSELS (AP) - King Albert asked the leader of a Dutch-speaking party to continue talks on assembling a centre-right coalition now deadlocked in a dispute over more autonomy for Belgium's Dutch and French speakers, the royal palace said Sunday.

20 August 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) - King Albert asked the leader of a Dutch-speaking party to continue talks on assembling a centre-right coalition now deadlocked in a dispute over more autonomy for Belgium's Dutch and French speakers, the royal palace said Sunday.

The monarch held one-on-one meetings with political leaders after Yves Leterme, the Flemish Christian Democratic leader and would-be prime minister, suspended his troubled, month-old government talks last Friday.

The king asked him to resume talks with leaders of the Christian Democratic and Liberal parties that are split into Dutch and French-speaking camps, the royal palace said in a statement.

It did not elaborate. There was no sign the monarch succeeded in breathing new life into the negotiations that were at a stalemate last week after Francophone negotiators rejected Dutch-speaking parties' demands for more self-rule in employment, transport, justice and other areas.

Their rejection reflected a sense that the more numerous Dutch-speakers seek to destroy Belgium as a unitary state and came with counter demands, rejected by Flemish parties, for more Francophone rights in Dutch-speaking Belgium.

Linguistic squabbles are frequent in politics in this bilingual country of 10.5 million, which became a federal monarchy in the 1980s. Since then, Dutch-speaking Flanders, population 6.5 million, in the north and French-speaking Wallonia, population 3.5 million, gradually have been given more self-rule in trade, housing, culture, agriculture and other areas.

King Albert asked Leterme to form a new government on July 16, five weeks after the centre-left alliance of outgoing Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt lost in national elections. Verhofstadt is staying on in a caretaker capacity.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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