News Summary: Ford closes Belgian plant

FORD RETREATS: After an extended sales slump in Europe, Ford announced the closure of its factory in in eastern Belgium _ one of its main European factories. It will lead to 4,500 direct job losses and 5,000 more among subcontractors. The announcement has rattled the country. Flanders minister president Kris Peeters called it a "nightmare" for workers.

IMPETUS: Half of the European Union is in recession and car sales are tanking. Ford expects to lose more than $1 billion this year in Europe. The European carmakers' association shows European sales have dropped 10.8 percent on a year-by-year basis in September. Ford's drop in sales was even bigger at 14.9 percent.

HUMAN TOLL: Ford's factory in Genk Ford Genk represents more than 30 percent of the car production in Belgium. Workers recieved the announcement with lots of tears but relative calm. A bonfire was set up at the gate of the plant but there was little union action since the factory was in the middle of a three-week layoff because of slack demand.