Government crisis deepens after 'verbal and physical' incident between ministers

The Belgian government's crisis continues to deepen. Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib, unders scrutiny for her role in granting visas to Iranian officials, is still in the eye of the storm. Meanwhile, Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke reportedly lashed out "verbally and physically" against Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne after a disagreement escalated.

According to various government sources, there was a heated discussion between Vandenbroucke and Van Quickenborne on Wednesday evening during a meeting over fee supplements for doctors.

"I briefly put my hand on my colleague's arm because I wanted to finish my point," Vandenbroucke told VRT NWS. "I can get excited in cases I consider important and discuss them fiercely." He added that meetings in the government can get heated and that he has already apologised.

Prime minister Alexander De Croo "deeply regrets what happened". "What happened on Wednesday night is not permissible and is not in line with a professional way of dealing with each other," he said.

Government in crisis

The altercation occurred during a meeting of the core ministers, where the fate of Lahbib was one of the main talking points. Left-wing parties Vooruit and Groen want her to apologise, but her party leader Georges-Louis Bouchez maintains she did nothing wrong in granting visas to an Iranian delegation who attended the Brussels Urban Summit. The government could fall if a solution is not found.

Lahbib is expected back in the House Committee of Foreign Affairs on Monday to give additional clarifications. She denies any wrongdoing.



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