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Dehaene seeks to break deadlock

Published on 06/07/2007

6 July 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) – Former Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene began work Friday to try to break a deadlock in coalition talks between Belgium’s political parties which has prevented the formation of a new government for 22 days since national elections.

The centre-right Christian Democrat and Liberal Democrat parties had been expected to form a new governing coalition following the poor showing of the Socialists in the June 10 legislative vote. However their French- and Dutch-speaking wings are split over the share out of powers between Belgium’s linguistic regions and the federal authorities.

Dehaene, 66, built a reputation has a bullish deal maker within the country’s squabbling language groups during his seven years as Christian Democrat prime minister in the 1990s.

However he likened his current task to the movie “Mission Impossible” after his appointment as mediator by King Albert II on Thursday.

Dehaene stepped down as mayor of the city of Vilvoorde north of Brussels to focus on his new job, but he stressed he had no plans to return to federal politics.

Yves Leterme, current leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats, is widely expected to become prime minister after his party gained most seats in parliament in an electoral alliance with a small nationalist party seeking more autonomy for the Dutch-speaking Flanders region.

However Leterme needs the support of French-speaking parties who oppose handing increased power to Flanders. Three weeks of talks led by the French-speaking Liberal leader Didier Reynders have failed to find a solution.

Meanwhile the outgoing coalition of Liberals and Socialists led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has continued in office.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news