500 days plus, Belgium still hunts for government

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2011 8:22 AM
500 days plus, Belgium still hunts for government

After more than 500 days, the world's longest government negotiations are dragging themselves toward the finish line in Belgium, pushed by anxious markets, European Union rebukes _ and even the prayers of the cardinal.

Government broker Elio Di Rupo on Thursday called on the six negotiating parties to make a final push on budgetary talks for next year, looking for a combination of more taxes and cuts in expenditure in an attempt to keep the country's overall debt and annual deficit within limits set by the EU.

The record negotiations since the June 13, 2010, elections have driven pundits to predict the split of the kingdom of 6.5 million Dutch-speakers in Flanders and 4.5 million French-speakers in Wallonia. Di Rupo's persistence, however, could lead to a decisive breakthrough this weekend.