2 FEBRUARY 2005

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Belgium's young princesses provided a delightful welcome for Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos when he began a three-day visit to their country this week.

The president was honoured by King Albert II and Queen Paola at a gala dinner amid the elegant surroundings of Laeken palace, just outside Brussels on Tuesday evening. And ably supporting the elder royals present was a bevy of fashionably-dressed princesses consisting of Crown Prince Philippe's wife Mathilde and her sisters-in-law, Princess Astrid and British-born Princess Claire.

Mathilde and Astrid, who is Philippe's younger sister, made a winning style combination as they posed for the official photographs against the backdrop of an imposing marble fireplace adorned with exquisite porcelain jars.

The crown princess opted for a floaty, peach-coloured dress with a heavily sequined bodice and light gauze stole to match. Astrid was in a slightly paler shade of pink, with unusual silver-grey detailing and a chic little silver clutch-bag. Princess Claire, who is married to Philippe's brother Prince Laurent, went for bolder colouring and a more tailored style of gown.

Mr Stephanopoulos, who has served two terms in the largely ceremonial role of president, is in Belgium at the invitation of the king and queen. This will be one of his final official trips abroad, as in March, the Greek parliament is to hold elections for a new president.

British-born Princess Claire, with her husband Prince Laurent, opted for a more tailored style of gown than her sisters-in-law
Photo: AFP
Click on the photos for gallery

Princess Astrid (left) with Crown Princess Mathilde and Crown Prince Philippe
Photo: AFP

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