The European parliament Tuesday refused to join talks later in the day between European Union budget ministers on the bloc's 2013 budget, a threat which could scuttle any deal.
In a statement issued three hours before discussions were to start, parliament said it could not join the negotiations because there was no agreement to deal with a 2012 shortfall depriving Europe's needy of key funds.
"Given the Council's inability to solve problems left over from 2012 ... the European parliament cannot pursue budgetary negotiations on the budget for 2013," said a statement from conservative French MEP Alain Lamassoure, who heads the assembly's budget committee.
A spokesman for Cyprus, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said of the negotiations, which were scheduled to begin at 1800 GMT, that "for us the meeting is not lost.
"We are trying to find a way to bring them back to the negotiating table," spokesman Nikos Christodoulides told AFP.
"Conciliation ends at midnight," he said, referring to the process of settling differences between Parliament and member state governments over the budget.
Ministers face a midnight deadline to overcome a row between the bloc's have and have-not nations that is holding up a deal on a budget for this year and next.
The quarrels comes days before a November 22-23 summit called to agree the EU's even more hotly contested long-term budget for 2014-2020.
Last Friday, states were to approve the 2013 budget but instead snagged straight off on an 8.9-billion-euro ($11.3-billion) hole in this year's spending.
The shortfall threatens a wide range of social programmes including the Erasmus student exchange scheme, which are currently out of cash.
It also included 670 million euros set aside to compensate Italian earthquake victims.