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Belgium coalition deal ends deadlock

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image captionCharles Michel (R), here with coalition colleague Kris Peeters, will be Belgium's youngest PM since 1841

After four months of political stalemate, centre-right parties in Belgium have agreed to form a government, to be sworn in on Saturday.

It will be led by French-speaking liberal Charles Michel, 38, who will be Belgium's youngest PM since 1841.

A deal was reached after 29 hours of talks - and 135 days after Belgians went to the polls.

However, Belgium's previous Socialist-led government was formed only after 541 days of deadlock.

Mr Michel, from the Francophone liberal MR party, will head a coalition that includes three parties from Dutch-speaking Flanders, including the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).

Belgian commentators have labelled the government the "Swedish coalition" because of the blue and yellow colours of the parties involved.

"We've reached the summit, now we're beginning our descent," Kris Peeters of the Christian Democrat CD&V party told Belgian radio after the marathon talks on Wednesday.

A party colleague of Mr Michel's, Didier Reynders, praised his careful handling of the negotiations and his proposals to keep the budget deficit to a maximum 3% of GDP.

"We're going into a government where we'll really going to make savings," Mr Reynders said. "A government without the Socialists is already a reform in itself."

As well as a commitment to lower taxes, the new government plans to raise the pension age from 65 to 66 in 2025 and to 67 in 2030.

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