Belgian coalition talks to resume


Belgium's King Albert II gave Flemish Christian Democrat leader Yves Leterme a second chance to form a centre-right government yesterday in a sign that the country's political crisis was easing.

Belgium remains without a new government 111 days after the June 10 parliamentary election despite a series of attempts by senior politicians to bridge the gap between warring parties of the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders and francophone Wallonia.

Mr Leterme, former premier of Flanders, failed in his initial attempt to build a coalition, but has been given another chance after a fellow Christian Democrat, acting as a mediator, pulled party chiefs back to the negotiating table.

"The king has charged Mr Yves Leterme with forming a government. Mr Leterme has accept this assignment," the palace said in a brief statement.

Mr Leterme can thank parliamentary speaker Herman Van Rompuy, a veteran Christian Democrat, who appears to have succeeded as a background negotiator in his month since being appointed mediator by the king.

The royal palace said Mr Van Rompuy reported back to the king yesterday afternoon.

"It appears that there are sufficient elements of convergence to allow negotiations to be resumed under the leadership of a formateur," the palace said before reappointing Mr Leterme in that role.

The formateur, the person charged with forming a government, typically becomes prime minister.