Talks to form Dutch govt kick off again after break

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose Liberal VVD party emerged as the largest in the Dutch parliament in March 15 polls, said a new government will be put together "as quickly as possible"

Tortuous talks to form the next Dutch government began again Wednesday after a three-week break, with party leaders declining to indicate when a new cabinet will be formed.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose Liberal VVD party emerged as the largest in the Dutch parliament in March 15 polls, said a new government will be put together "as quickly as possible."

"But I don't want to put time limit on it," he told reporters outside a venue in central The Hague where the talks are being held.

"We are actually starting where we stopped three weeks ago. Lots still has to happen, but I am hopeful as we continue," added Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma, whose conservative CDA party won 19 seats in the elections.

A first attempt to include the left-wing ecology-based GroenLinks party in a four-way coalition broke down in May amid differences over immigration, leaving a political stalemate and causing the first person tasked with trying to form a government to step down.

A second person also stepped down after failing to get a cabinet together but he did manage to find three willing partners to rule with Rutte in a coalition government.

Respected Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant now say former ABN Amro boss Gerrit Zalm, the third person facing the task, "has put together a skeleton agreement to form the Rutte III cabinet" together with the CDA, the progressive D66 and the more conservative Christian Union.

Rutte's VVD won 33 seats, far short of the 76 needed for a majority in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, but together with the other three parties it will just reach the threshold required.

Waiting in the wings, though, has been the far-right, anti-Islam Freedom party of Geert Wilders, which came second in March winning 20 seats. To his frustration, the other parties have refused to work with him, turned off by his incendiary agenda.

Coalition governments and arduous negotiations are common in The Netherlands. Rutte took 54 days in 2012 to form his coalition, while the record stands at 208 days in 1977.

On Wednesday, the ticker to form the latest government stood at 147 days.