Philippe becomes new Belgian king as Albert II abdicates

BRUSSELS. July 22. KAZINFORM Crown Prince Philippe has been sworn in as the new Belgian king after the emotional abdication of his father Albert II.

The Oxford- and Stanford-educated, trained air force pilot took the oath as the country's seventh king in a ceremony in parliament.

To warm applause, King Philippe, 53, promised to uphold the constitution.

Belgium has a constitutional monarchy in which the king plays a largely ceremonial role.

One of the duties the monarch does have is trying to resolve constitutional crises.

In his final address before signing a legislative act to step down, 79-year-old King Albert said his country must remain a "source of inspiration" to Europe.

His resignation on the grounds of ill-health came after nearly 20 years on the throne and was timed to coincide with Belgium's national day, Kazinform has learnt from BBC News.

He stressed his wish that Belgium - split between the Dutch-speaking north and the French south - remained united.

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