INTERNATIONAL

Belgium crosses 14 months without government

Belgium's quarrelling politicians returned to the negotiating table on Tuesday, with acting Prime Minister Yves Leterme kicking off a round of meetings on controversial reforms that have left the western European country without a government for 14 months.

King Albert II had last month ordered a three-week break in the talks — part of the eighth attempt to end the Belgian political crisis — noting the “great fatigue” felt by the negotiators.

A rift between the Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia regions has hampered the political negotiations ever since the last elections in June 2010 — winning Belgium a Guinness World Record for going the longest without a government in times of peace.

Reforms are seen as a prerequisite to forming a new government.

In late July, leading French-speaking politician Elio Di Rupo managed to secure a deal with the heads of seven other parties on how to proceed with discussions over a reform package he has drafted.

Flanders' biggest party, the N-VA, was excluded from the talks after its hardline leader, Bart De Wever, rejected Mr. Di Rupo's idea outright. — DPA



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