Belgian parties ready on talks to end crisis: official

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Eight Belgian parties are ready on talks to form a government to end a year-long political stalemate, a prominent politician charged by King Albert II to end the impasse indicated on Friday.

French-speaking Socialist Elio Di Rupo informed the monarch of the willingness of four Flemish and four French-speaking parties after holding talks with them, the palace said in a statement. If successful, the talks will give the coalition a parliamentary quorum.

On the eve of the country's national day, the king had warned that the deadlock was threatening to slow the momentum of European integration.

The impasse has left Belgium with a dubious world record as it surpassed Iraq this year as the nation without a government for the longest time.

The Flemish Christian Democrats then announced late Wednesday they could join seven other parties for talks.

Albert II had earlier pleaded with the feuding Flemish and French-speaking parties to resolve their differences and form a government, more than 400 days after legislative elections.

"Our current situation is a cause for concern among our partners and could damage our position in Europe, and even the momentum towards European integration which has already been undermined by populism and euroscepticism," the king said in a televised address.

A founding member of the European Union, Belgium has often been considered an example of integration in the European Union, with a Dutch-speaking community in the north and Francophones in the south.

But it now risks becoming a symbol of divisions in the 27-nation EU as politicians in Flanders and Wallonia struggle to strike a deal to transfer more federal powers to the regions.

© 2011 AFP

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