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Bid to form govt fails as Francophone leader quits talks

Video by Lise BARCELLINI , Nicholas RUSHWORTH


Latest update : 2010-09-04

Belgium hit another impasse in its attempt to form a government three months after elections, when Francophone Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo quit talks aimed at building a new coalition on Friday.

AFP - Broken Belgium's bid to form a government collapsed on Friday putting fractious Dutch- and French-speaking parts back on a collision course.

Francophone Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo quit seven-party talks aimed at forming a new coalition and urged King Albert II to relieve him of responsibility for ending a political impasse going back many months.

The figurehead for Belgium's Flemish separatists, Bart De Wever, accused Di Rupo of presiding over a "missed opportunity," but Di Rupo later told a media conference that he had refused to accede to Flemish demands at what he termed "any cost."

The palace said that the king would "reserve his decision" on what to do next during a fresh round of consultations but Di Rupo underlined that he "insisted to the king" that he "be genuinely discharged" of his burden when the latest round of royal talks wrap up.

Di Rupo threw in the towel after failing to land a breakthrough three months after elections gave proponents of a breakaway Flanders the upper hand, although problems carving out a stable government can be traced back at least until the summer of 2007.

New Flemish Alliance (NVA) boss Bart De Wever, the big winner from a summer vote that raises the prospect of Belgium one day breaking-up, said his party "regrets that the respective positions of the Flemish and the francophones could not be brought closer."

Openly gay, bow-tied Di Rupo -- a victim of death-threats during his labours -- said francophone leaders had received the message from Flemish voters "loud and clear" and offered to "re-model the Belgian state."

However, he maintained that un-named Flemish rivals were "making the same mistake" of not listening closely enough to partners across the linguistic divide and insisting on federal reforms that would leave the people of French-speaking Wallonia and bilingual Brussels "poorer."

In a clear echo of the difficulties which beset separate stints in charge for current caretaker premier and so-called 'serial quitter' Yves Leterme, Di Rupo had already offered to stand down from his royal mission on Sunday.

He warned on Monday that the country of 10 million people, the permanent home to the European Union and NATO, risked a descent into "political chaos" if a deal carving up monies and voting rights for Brussels and surrounding localities could not be agreed.

Charles Picque, who leads the state government for the Brussels region, told AFP that the king would in all likelihood "put the ball back in the Dutch-speaking camp by naming someone else who might have a better chance of convincing the Flemish to compromise."

Date created : 2010-09-04


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