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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Belgium defends king against 'assault'
Queen Paola and King Albert
The Royal Palace has denounced the book
The Belgian Government has threatened legal action against one of France's leading publishers for releasing a book linking King Albert II to a paedophilia scandal.

An unacceptable assault on the dignity of our nation and its people

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on the book
The book, which reproduces what it says are extracts of an official investigation of the King, has been interpreted by the Belgian media as an attempt to topple the monarchy.

A statement issued by the office of the Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, described it as "an unacceptable assault on the dignity of our nation and its people".

The book, published by Flammarion under the title Paedophile Dossier - the Scandal of the Dutroux Case, suggests that Albert attended sex parties in the 1970s and 1980s where children were abused.

The royal palace has issued an unprecedented condemnation denouncing the "grotesque accusations" against the King, who came to the throne in 1993.

Ambassador's warning

Marc Dutroux
Dutroux: Convicted child rapist
The palace said it was incomprehensible that Flammarion would discredit itself by publishing "allegations made by fantasists in search of sensation".

On Monday the government instructed the Justice Minister, Marc Verwilghen, to "take the necessary steps" against the company.

The book has already been published in Belgium and is about to be published in France, despite a warning from the Belgian ambassador.

It was written by Luxembourg-based investigative journalist Jean Nicolas, who says he makes no accusations against King Albert, but merely publishes legal documents written by a Belgian judge.

He says the official inquiry was never finished.

The Belgian daily newspaper, Le Soir, accused Mr Nicolas of trying to obtain "the head of the King, and also of Belgium itself".

Marc Dutroux, a convicted child rapist at the centre of a national paedophilia scandal in the 1990s, is awaiting trial on further charges of raping and killing four teenage girls.

See also:

31 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Belgium
24 Dec 00 | Europe
Belgian king warns against racism
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