A possible ban on the burqa in Belgium got a respite on Thursday after the government tendered its resignation following a linguistic spat between the governing coalition partners.

Premier Yves Leterme's government collapsed after negotiations broke down to resolve a long-simmering dispute between Dutch and French-speaking politicians over a bilingual voting district. Dutch-speaking Liberals, one of Mr. Leterme's five coalition parties, quit the Cabinet, accusing its Francophone counterparts of blocking a deal to break up the Brussels-area district the constitutional court ruled illegal in 2003.

Mr. Leterme offered King Albert the resignation of his government, but the monarch has yet to officially accept it.

Belgium was set on Thursday to slap a ban on wearing the burqa in public, the first such clampdown in Europe, just a day after the French government promised a similar law.

Belgium's Parliament was to vote on the law after its home affairs committee unanimously backed a nationwide ban on clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified, including the full-face niqab and burqa. Both the governing parties and the opposition support the measure.

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