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Belgian king to abdicate in favour of crown prince

Belgian king to abdicate in favour of crown princeBrussels, July 4 - Belgium's 79-year-old King Albert II has announced that he would abdicate July 21, the country's national day, and leave the throne to his eldest son and crown prince Philippe.

In a televised address to the nation Wednesday, the king named "age and health" as the reasons for not continuing to do his duties, Xinhua reported.

"Prince Philippe is well prepared to succeed me," Albert said.

Philippe, 53, is a fighter pilot and parachutist with degrees from the world's top universities.

There had been rumours in the media about the king's resignation. Belgian national TV reported that the king informed the government of his decision Wednesday.

Albert II was sworn in as Belgium's sixth king in 1993, succeeding his brother Baudouin who died at the age of 62. The month of August would have marked the king's 20 years on the throne.

Though lacking executive powers, the king has been seen as a symbol of unity for the country with a long divide between French-speaking and Dutch-speaking communities.

In particular, Albert II played a mediating role in solving the country's parliamentary deadlock in 2010 and 2011, when Belgium was left without a government for a record 541 days.

Recently, the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix also gave up the throne for her son Willem Alexander. (IANS)