A dispute between Belgium's French- and Dutch-speaking parties threatens to bring down Prime Minister Yves Leterme's five-month-old government on Thursday.
The Flemish liberals, OpenVLD, have said they will withdraw from the government if no agreement is reached by mid-Thursday on the electoral boundaries around Brussels -- a complex and highly divisive issue that French- and Dutch-speakers have argued about for decades.
"The deadline is the deadline, another 24 hours and then it's passed," an exasperated OpenVLD minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told Belgian television.
Leterme replaced European Union President Herman Van Rompuy as prime minister last November despite fears that his second term in office could be as unstable as his first, when media speculated the country could break apart.
Former Premier Jean-Luc Dehaene was charged by the king with proposing ways to resolve conflict in the linguistically divided country.
He presented his ideas on the boundary problem to the governing parties on Monday, instantly sparking complaints from French-speaking groups.
During Leterme's first nine months in office in 2008, the country lurched from one crisis to another, increasing the risk premium investors demanded to hold government bonds
Belgium, home to European Union institutions and NATO, can ill afford to let its domestic problems drag on given that in July it will take over the six-month EU presidency, an organisational role held by each member state in turn.
ReutersLast Mod: 21 Nisan 2010, 21:16