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Brussels blog by some wire service journalists

Belgian parties near deal to create government

Elio di Rupo is expected to beecome Belgium's next prime minister

By DON MELVIN

BRUSSELS — Political negotiators in Belgium, stung into action by a credit downgrade, agreed Saturday on budgets for the next three years, clearing the way for the country to get a permanent government in the coming days.

Belgium has had only a caretaker government since June 13, 2010, as a series of negotiators tried and failed to bridge the divide between the country’s 6.5 million Dutch-speakers and its 4.5 million French-speakers. But the talks were given much greater urgency late Friday when Standard & Poor’s downgraded Belgium’s credit rating, potentially leading to increasing interest rates and a downward financial spiral.

Negotiators for six political parties hurriedly resumed their talks at 6 p.m. on Friday and continued through the night. They reached a deal around noon on Saturday.

Guillaume de Walque, a spokesman for Elio di Rupo — the man leading the talks and the presumed new prime minister — told The Associated Press by text message the parties have reached an agreement on the budgets for 2012, 2013 and 2014, as well as on structural reforms and labor and pension reforms.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

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Don Melvin

Slobodan Lekic

Raf Casert

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