Belgian king rejects govt's resignation; Pushes for more talks

King Albert II asked three seasoned politicians Friday to help him sort out a deepening split over constitutional reforms which threaten to tear apart this nation of 6.5 million Dutch-speakers and 4 million Francophones. The Belgian monarch gave them two weeks to see how politicians from Dutch-speaking Flanders and Francophone Wallonia can begin a "credible" dialogue about more regional autonomy. He rejected, for now, Monday's resignation of the government of Prime Minister Yves Leterme. In a statement, the palace said the monarch asked Leterme "to encourage as best as is possible" chances of launching a constitutional reform debate. A cumbersome seven-party alliance of Christian Democrats, Liberals, Socialists and nationalist hard-liners from both language camps, the government took office March 20. It failed to agree on devolving more federal powers to Belgium's prosperous Dutch-speaking north, and Wallonia, its economically poorer southern half.