Would-be Belgium PM quits coalition talks amid deadlock

21st November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The politician tasked with forming a new Belgian government, Elio Di Rupo, offered to resign Monday from coalition talks following a deadlock over budget cuts, the royal palace said.

Di Rupo "asked the king to be dismissed from his mission" after reporting to Albert II "the deadlock in budgetary, social and economic negotations that must lead to the formation of a government," the palace said in a statement.

The sovereign delayed a decision on whether to accept the Socialist leader's resignation, and urged the six parties involved in the talks to seek a solution to a crisis that last left Belgium without a government for 526 days.

The king "recalls the gravity of the current situation and underlines that the defence of the general interest of all Belgians and European deadlines require a very quick resolution to the political crisis," the palace said.

"The king asks each negotiator to use the next hours to reflect and measure the consequences of a failure, and actively find a solution."

The latest talks collapsed at 2:00 am on Monday after two Flemish and French-speaking centre-right parties rejected Di Rupo's plan to cut the country's deficit, saying it relied too much on tax hikes and not enough on government spending cuts.

The other four parties were ready to back the Socialist leader's plan to slice 11.3 billion euros ($15.3 billion) off the deficit next year and some 20 billion in all by 2015.

Caretaker premier Yves Leterme and the European Commission have repeatedly called for a deal that would bring the public deficit below three percent of gross domestic product by 2012 -- rather than the 4.6 percent now forecast.

EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn warned Belgium and four other EU states earlier this month that they could face fines if they failed to get their public finances back in order.

© 2011 AFP

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