EU Commission hopes for cooperation with new Belgian government

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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme on his appointment.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme on his appointment, saying that he expected Belgium to continue its positive role as host country to the EU authorities.

Belgium was known for its attitude of compromise and mediation which had been an important contribution to the 50-year-old history of the European Union, he said.

Flemish conservative Leterme was Thursday approved by King Albert II as new Belgian prime minister, with a five-party coalition government succeeding former acting prime minister Guy Verhofstadt.

The king's formal decision puts Belgium on the brink of solving the longest-running political crisis in recent history, over nine months after Belgians went to the polls in a general election.

In that poll, voters ousted the liberal Verhofstadt, the winner of the last two elections.

Leterme, from the Dutch-speaking majority, won a surprise victory, but coalition talks repeatedly foundered over differences between Belgium's Dutch-speaking majority and French- speaking minority.

In December, Leterme resigned the task of forming a government. The king appointed Verhofstadt to run a caretaker administration while Leterme continued coalition talks.

On Tuesday five parties - the Dutch- and French-speaking conservatives and liberals and the French-speaking socialists - announced that they had hammered out a coalition deal.

dpa

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