Flemish leader assaulted by French-speaker in Belgium

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The separatist speaker of the regional Dutch-speaking Flemish parliament said Thursday he was beaten up and insulted while visiting the French-speaking part of the country last weekend.

"I would never have thought I'd be assaulted for my political ideas," said Jan Peumans.

The news triggered immediate condemnation from the head of Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia, Rudy Demotte.

"In the name of the Wallonia government, Rudy Demotte firmly condemns the assault," he said in a statement. "Political disagreement should never descend into violence."

Peumans, quoted by the Dutch-language press, said the incident occurred Sunday while he was visiting the French-speaking town of Vise with his wife.

He said a French-speaker in his 30s ran after him shouting insults and hit him on the grounds that he had no place in Wallonia. He suffered bleeding and a dislocated jaw.

The incident comes as King Albert II seeks to get the respective leaders of Flanders and Wallonia to try once more to navigate seven-party talks aimed at securing some form of stable government.

Belgium has been without a federal government for two months after elections that gave separarists the upper hand in Flanders, plunging the country deeper into deadlock and even raising the eventual prospect of break-up.

© 2010 AFP

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