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UPDATED: 09:45, January 06, 2007
Dutch political party leaders in talks for coalition gov't
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Dutch political party leaders are in intensive talks in a bid to lay the foundations for a new coalition government, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant said on Friday.

Christian Democrat (CDA) leader Jan Peter Balkenende, Labor Party (PvdA) leader Wouter Bos, and Christian Union (CU) leader Andre Rouvoet withdrew to a remote estate in the northern Netherlands on Friday to take advantage of the peace and quiet there, said the paper.

The leaders have spent the last few days drawing up a list of the most important differences of opinion and points of agreement between their parties.

The parties have told each other, among other things, their wishes and ambitions for the coming years. On the basis of that, they would try to formulate a mission for the new government, said De Volkskrant.

Insiders expect that the parties will announce on Friday that they have found enough common ground to move forward together.

Starting on Monday, the negotiations will continue in The Hague when "difficult topics" will be up for discussion.

Some of the issues which were expected to cause problems between the CDA and PvdA were the general old age pension, mortgage interest relief, rent policy, foreign policy, and liberalization in healthcare, said De Volkskrant.

CU leader Rouvoet is under pressure from his party to make progress on ethical issues. The majority of his followers believe that the party should withdraw from the negotiations if Rouvoet does not manage to secure changes to policies on same-sex marriage, euthanasia or abortion.

There was much resistance, however, in the PvdA to the conservative approach of the CU to these medical-ethical areas, said the paper.

In the November elections, the center-right CDA and the center-left PvdA seized 41 and 33 parliamentary seats respectively. With the CU, which won six seats, the prospective coalition would have a simple majority in the 150-seat parliament.

The PvdA was the largest opposition in the previous government led by Jan Peter Balkenende.

Source: Xinhua

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