Incoming Belgium premier forms cabinet

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Belgium's incoming Socialist prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, and his five coalition partners have agreed on the make-up of a cabinet to be sworn in by King Albert II on Tuesday, political sources said.

The swearing in by the monarch, who will first accept the resignation of caretaker premier Yves Leterme, will bring an end to the country's longest political crisis in history, which left it 18 months without a government.

After a June 2010 election failed to produce a decisive victor, the country's feuding politicians, split both politically and by Belgium's widening language divide, were unable to strike a coalition deal for months.

Di Rupo since has been finessing a government platform for six parties with enough combined parliament seats to govern. When a credit downgrade threatened Belgium 10 days ago, the divided parties finally took the last step to a deal.

Belgian media said Di Rupo had agreed a 13-member cabinet, including himself, with six portfolios for other French-speakers from southern Wallonia and six for Dutch-speakers from wealthier northern Flanders, which accounts for 60 percent of the 10.5 million population.

The prestige foreign affairs portfolio would go to current caretaker finance minister Didier Reynders, a French-speaking liberal.

He would trade places with current foreign minister Steven Vanackere, a Dutch-speaking liberal.

Di Rupo, who is 60, will be the first French-speaking premier in more than three decades and the first Socialist to take the helm of the country since 1974.

© 2011 AFP

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