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Europe

Belgian King Demands New Attempt at Government Resolution

Belgian King Albert II sent his Prime Minister Yves Leterme back to the drawing board late Thursday, insisting he stay in power and seek a resolution of his coalition's stalemate, Belgian media reports said.

Belgian flag

The future of Belgium as a state has been again put in doubt

Albert turned down Leterme's resignation, which was first submitted late Monday, after the Flemish Christian Democrat prime minister realized that his five-party coalition government would fail to meet a self-imposed July 15 deadline for reaching a consensus on constitutional reform.

The king received Leterme for official discussions after days of talks with leading politicians about a solution. He also named three mediators with instructions to find a way out of the crisis: two French-speaking politicians, Francois-Xavier de Donnea and Raymond Langendries, as well as Karl-Heinz Lambertz from German-speaking Belgium.

Albert urged the government to give full support to the reconciliation efforts.

Leterme heads a coalition that has tried to bridge the long-standing language rivalry between the 6.5 million Dutch-speaking Flemish people and the four million French-speaking Walloons.

Both sides have been trying to increase their influence in the country, with the Flemish demanding increased responsibilities for their territories. The reorganization of the multilingual constituency of the Brussels region has stirred particularly strong feelings.

The formation in March of the Leterme government, which includes conservatives and liberals of both language groups as well as Francophone socialists, had appeared to resolve a nine-month political crisis -- the longest in the country's history -- following the June 2007 elections.

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