20 Dec 2008

Belgian Government offers to go

10:49 am on 20 December 2008

The Belgian Prime Minister has offered his government's resignation after his office was accused of meddling in a court case.

The Government is locked in a complex legal battle with minority shareholders of the banking and insurance group Fortis over the sale of its Belgian assets to the French bank BNP Paribas.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme's office is accused of trying to persuade a court not to grant a legal appeal by shareholders opposed to the sale.

The BBC reports Fortis is among the European banks hardest-hit by the current financial turmoil, which left it desperately short of cash.

The Justice Minister has already resigned, after the president of Belgium's Supreme Court said that, while there was no legal proof as yet, there were "strong indications" that Mr Leterme's office had tried to influence the appeals court.

King Albert II has deferred his decision on whether to accept the government's resignation and is beginning consultations on the matter.

Mr Leterme came to power in March after nine months of deadlock over the extent that powers should be devolved to the regions.

He previously offered his resignation in July after failing to break a political deadlock among linguistic groups.