Decree doubts

"The judge decided to temporarily suspend the emergency decree which had led to the dismissal of this official," the justice department's legal information centre said.

Federico Pinedo, an opposition congressman, said that a motion he and other legislators filed to prevent Kirchner from using reserves from the autonomous central bank was accepted by the judge.

The government has argued that the constitution allows it to issue the emergency decree, which cited misconduct and dereliction of duties as reasons for the dismissal.

Redrado initially said that he would leave office but not resign. Rather he said he would take the case to court stating that the bank's charter stipulates he can only be removed by congress.

He maintains that Kirchner had ordered the central bank to use about $6.6bn in reserves to help cover $13bn in international debt falling due this year.

Opposition legislators and other critics accused Kirchner of violating the bank's autonomy by ordering it to use reserves to pay the debt, saying it could lead to a sharp increase in government spending.

Political implications

Kirchner's administration has said it is trying to clear up the country's debt problems so that it can return to international credit markets that have been closed to it since a huge default on debt payments in 2001.

Argentina's debt obligations rise steeply this year to $13bn, and economists estimate a funding gap of $2bn to $7bn.

The dispute has stoked public accusations of the government attempting to bypass Congress in its decision making.

Last year significant controversy arose when Kirchner attempted to raise soya taxes leading farmers groups to win a battle in Congress against the move.

The latest dispute could have large political implications for the government and Kirchner, whose approval ratings are already at only 30 per cent.