Romanian coalition partner quits government, paves way for no-confidence vote

BUCHAREST, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The junior USR-Plus partner in Romania's centrist coalition government will remove its ministers from the cabinet on Tuesday, paving the way for a parliamentary vote of no-confidence against Liberal Prime Minister Florin Citu.

The fracture of the three-party coalition, which includes Romania's largest party, Citu's Liberals, an ethnic Hungarian group and the USR-Plus, could endanger an ambitious agenda to reduce the Black Sea state's budget and external deficits.

Crisis talks on Friday between coalition partners failed to yield a deal to support Citu, with USR-Plus insisting on toppling him with the help of opposition ultra-nationalists.

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"Tomorrow morning, our ministers' resignation papers will sit on the premier's table," USR leader Dan Barna told reporters. "This is a tough decision and... we're not going to have a negotiating night."

The coalition jointly controls 56% of parliament, and Barna stressed that his grouping would like to keep the current governing coalition, "but without Citu, as he lost our trust."

Barna had said the USR-Plus has been gathering 122 signatures for a no-confidence vote with the help of nationalist party AUR, after its justice minister was sacked when he opposed a local infrastructure development funding scheme.

The 10 billion-euro ($11.87 billion) funding programme designed by Citu to support local communities' infrastructure projects was approved by the government last week but was deemed by USR as a tool to lure powerful town mayors to back Citu at a nationwide level.

To pass, the USR-Plus no-confidence motion would need at least 234 votes, with the bulk of leftist opposition Social Democrats deputies required to back it. A calendar for the motion is to be approved by deputies on Tuesday.

Citu, a relative newcomer but backed by centrist President Klaus Iohannis, hopes to win the Liberal Party leadership in an internal election this month.

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Reporting by Radu-Sorin Marinas; Editing by Dan Grebler

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