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Islamic veil ban in Dutch coalition deal

image captionParty leaders, from left, Geert Wilders, Mark Rutte and Maxime Verhagen, have reached agreement

A ban on wearing the full Islamic veil in the Netherlands will be part of the government's programme under a pact to form a coalition, party leaders say.

The Liberals and Christian Democrats have had to make concessions to anti-Islamist Geert Wilders to gain his support for their minority coalition.

The deal ends months of deadlock but still needs to be ratified by Christian Democrats in a meeting on Saturday.

The pact includes plans for budget cuts of 18bn euros ($24bn; £15bn) by 2015.

It also tightens rules on immigration and boosts the number of police officers.

"Important reforms will be carried out in the Netherlands," Liberal party leader Mark Rutte said in presenting the pact, titled Freedom and Responsibility.

"We want to give the country back to the working Dutch citizen."

The Liberal party (VVD) and the Christian Democrats (CDA) have 52 seats between them in the 150-seat parliament and propose to form a minority government. They would rely on the Freedom Party's 24 seats to pass legislation by a tiny margin.

Under the deal, VVD leader Mr Rutte would become prime minister, forming a cabinet with the CDA, led by Maxime Verhagen.

Mr Verhagen described the deal as a "very good governing agreement".

"I am convinced that it is an agreement that every Christian Democrat will be able to identify with," he said.

Marathon talks

The deal has angered some CDA MPs who do not want to work with Mr Wilders.

CDA MPs decided after marathon talks on Wednesday to leave the final decision on joining the coalition to a special conference on Saturday.

Mr Wilders is well known for his controversial far-right views.

He has campaigned to stop the "Islamisation of the Netherlands" and is due to stand trial next week on hate speech charges for allegedly insulting Islam.

The Netherlands has been run by a caretaker government since February when a coalition led by the CDA's former leader, Jan Peter Balkenende, collapsed after a row over military involvement in Afghanistan.

June's general election delivered a surge of support for the Freedom Party, which won the third biggest share of the seats.

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