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Overnight breakthrough in Belgium's political crisis

 Overnight breakthrough in Belgium's political crisis
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After six months in political deadlock, Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister has reached a deal on forming an interim government. Guy Verhofstadt, a Dutch-speaking Liberal, has convinced the francophone Christian Democrats to join his temporary coalition. The five-party grouping will take control in the next few days and will stay in power until at least March 23.

It should have been up to Yves Leterme to form the government. The leader of the Dutch-speaking Christian Democrats won June elections but has not been able to find a compromise with his French-speaking counterparts on the issue of institutional reform.

And, while the politicians argue, Belgium’s population is losing patience. Some 20,000 people took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the rising costs of food and fuel.

Devising a budget for 2008 and agreeing on the extent of regional autonomy are two of the key issues which must also be decided.

Negotiations to form a permanent government under Leterme will get underway within the next few weeks.

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