Page last updated at 22:41 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 23:41 UK

Belgian PM's resignation rejected

Yves Leterme (file image)
Yves Leterme took office in March after nine months of political deadlock

Belgium's King Albert II has rejected the resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme, the royal palace has said.

The king said three ministers would look at ways of resolving the country's long-running political problems, and Mr Leterme's government would back them.

He took office in March, nine months after a general election had resulted in deadlock between the major parties.

But he offered to resign on Monday after he failed to push through plans to devolve more power to the regions.

The palace said the monarch had now asked two senior French-speaking politicians and the leader of Belgium's small German-speaking community to establish how to start reform talks.

Three federal regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north; French-speaking Wallonia in the south (which has a German-speaking minority); Brussels, the capital, officially bilingual
Federal state has national responsibility for justice, defence, federal police, social security, nuclear energy, monetary policy
Regional governments oversee education, employment, agriculture, transport, environment

Francois Xavier de Donnea, Raymond Langendries and Karl-Heinz Lambertz accepted the mission and would report back at the end of the month, the statement said.

"The king has refused to accept the resignation of the government and has asked the government to promote the chances of success of this mission as much as possible," the palace said in a statement.

Mr Leterme, head of a Dutch and French-speaking coalition, had set a 15 July deadline to push through his devolution plans.

But in French-speaking Wallonia - where unemployment is higher and the economy sluggish - there were fears devolution would leave their region worse off.

No single party bridges the linguistic and geographic gulf between Belgium's two regions.

Traditionally, the prime minister comes from one of the majority Flemish parties.

New Belgian PM faces rocky road
20 Mar 08 |  Europe
Country profile: Belgium
10 Jul 08 |  Country profiles

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