Protesters threatened on Friday to bring the country to its knees if he did not immediately nationalise the oil and gas industries.

Brazil is considering imposing gas rationing if the supply from Bolivia is interrupted, Energy Minister Dilma Roussef said.

"We believe that we can hold off problems for more than two weeks," he said.

Brazil imports from Bolivia about 22 million cubic metres of gas daily of the 34 million it uses.

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said they might buy gas from Peru if Bolivian protesters blocked roads and occupied pipeline pumping stations in the Andean nation, as they did to topple Bolivian President Carlos Mesa.

Election promise

The head of Bolivia's Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, was installed late on Thursday as the interim president promising to hold elections in five months.

Bolivia's gas reserves are second only to Venezuela's in Latin America.

"We believe that we can hold off problems for more than two weeks"

Dilma Roussef,
Brazilian Energy Minister

Kirchner and Lagos, who met on the border between their countries to inaugurate a highway, said they might look to Peru to make up any shortfall.

However, Lagos said that he did not know if Peru could supply it.

"There must be someone ready to sell," he said. "Next week, ministers will meet to move in that direction."

Kirchner said the crisis could lead to more permanent energy sharing. "Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and God wish that, in the future, with our sister republic, Bolivia, we will build an energy network that our growing nations need," he said.