Belgium denies king planned to abdicate

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Belgium's royal palace quashed rumours on Tuesday that King Albert II had plans to abdicate and hand the throne to his son, Prince Philippe, in December.

The Flemish-language newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reported that the king had intended to step down but abandoned the idea because of deepening political uncertainty in the linguistically-divided nation, caused by the failure to form a new government.

"This issue is not on the agenda," palace spokesman Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw told AFP, refusing further comment.

The king has had to name several negotiators and mediators to keep on-and-off talks between Flemish and francophone parties alive since inconclusive June elections.

The seven-party negotiations hit a new roadblock Monday when a political plan proposed by Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever, whose party triumphed in the elections, was rejected by French-speaking parties.

The failure to bridge differences has raised the possibility that the kingdom could split up, with Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia going their separate ways.

© 2010 AFP

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