Anti-corruption legislation and the Romania'selections to the European parliament have both been delayed by the disagreement.

Common ground

Basescu met the parties of the centrist governing coalition as well the left-wing opposition on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the situation, but they were unable to find common ground.

"The main cause for the ... crisis is a political vendetta between the president and the prime minister"

Mircea Geoana, head of Romania's former communist PSD party
"The main cause for the ... crisis is a political vendetta between the president and the prime minister," Mircea Geoana, head of the ex-communist PSD party, which lost power to the centrists in 2004, said.

The ruling coalition is credited with introducing broad reforms to overhaul institutions, open up Romania's economy and fight endemic corruption, but its Liberal and Democrat parties accuse each other of undermining the alliance.

Local media reports suggest that Tariceanu may bow to pressure from within his Liberal Party to push out ministers from the Democrat grouping, linked to Basescu, and rely on support from the opposition.

The telephone tapping revelations forced the resignation on Monday of Claudiu Saftoiu, Romania's intelligence chief who was appointed by Basescu last September.

Saftoiu quit after telling the parliamentary committee that phone tapping of people suspected of violating national security had been conducted with the approval of the general prosecutor's office.

Spying allegations

Later, in a letter, he apologised, accepting that such operations could be carried out only with the authorisation of a judge.

The opposition parties claim that Basescu used the secret services to spy on other politicians.

Razvan Ungureanu, the country's foreign minister, also fell victim to the long-running dispute between the president and prime minister.

Ungureanu, considered a close ally of Basescu, was sacked after Tariceanu accused the foreign minister of failing to inform him when two Romanian workers were detained by US forces in Iraq on suspicion of spying.

Romania is now without a foreign minister as the president has refused to accept Tariceanu's nomination of Adrian Cioroianu, a historian and liberal European MP, to succeed Ungureanu.

Meanwhile, ambassadors due to take up new assignments have also been caught up in the dispute leaving embassies in 18 countries, including a dozen capitals such as Washington, Paris and London, vacant.