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Potential Belgian PM urges Flemish, francophone compromise

Elio Di Rupo, who may become Belgium’s first francophone prime minister in 30 years, called Friday for a compromise between Flemish and French-speaking parties at a "key moment" in the nation’s history.

King Albert II asked Di Rupo late Thursday to seek ways to form a coalition after the big winner of the June 13 election, Flemish separatist Bart de Wever, finished a three-week exploratory mission that ended without a new government.

"We are living a key moment in the history of our country," said Di Rupo, a socialist whose party came out on top in Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia.

"I do understand the numerous difficulties that still need to be overcome. It is now up to each political leader to make the compromises that will allow the formation of a federal government," he said.

Belgium’s last, five-party, coalition government fell after a key Flemish party walked out in frustration over a lack of movement on some of the knottiest inter-communal problems, prompting the early elections.

Should Di Rupo succeed in forming a government it would be a first for a francophone since Paul Vanden Boeynants, a Brussels Christian Democrat who was prime minister from October 1978 to April 1979.

De Wever, whose party swept the election in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking part, handed in a report to the king on Thursday giving details on the chances of a viable new government coalition.

"There are convergences between the parties but not enough to form a government" for now, said De Wever, who has said he is not interested in forming a government himself.

The most sensitive issues include a long-running language feud and Flemish demands for more autonomy for Flanders.

A country of 10.5 million people and 60 percent Flemish, Belgium — which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO — already has heavily devolved regional governments, divided along linguistic lines anchored in a financial gulf.