AMSTERDAM (Reuters/AFP) Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenendes coalition government collapsed on Saturday when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned. The fall of the government in the EU member country, just two days short of the coalitions third anniversary, all but guarantees that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be brought home this year and will eventually prompt new parliamentary elections. The collapse, the fourth for a cabinet led by Balkenende in eight years, throws into doubt the scope and timing of planned budget cuts for next year as the Dutch economy struggles to emerge from the global downturn. I unfortunately note that there is no longer a fruitful path for the Christian Democrats, Labour Party and Christian Union to go forward, Balkenende, who leads the centre-right Christian Democrats, told reporters. For days we have seen that unity has been affected by ... statements that clash with recent cabinet decisions. These statements place a political mortgage on collegial deliberation. The Dutch premier offered his governments resignation to Queen Beatrix on Saturday, a spokesman said as a spat over the countrys Afghan military mission scuppered the ruling coalition. Contact has taken place by telephone with the Queen, who is holidaying in Austria, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenendes spokesman Henk Brons told AFP. Asked whether Balkenende had officially tendered the governments resignation to Beatrix, the constitutional head of state, Brons replied: Yes. The collapse came after more than 15 hours of talks that lasted until early on Saturday, following acrimonious exchanges throughout the week. Balkenende wanted to extend the Dutch troop deployment in the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan past an August deadline, but Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos Labour Party opposed any extension. Nato spokesman James Appathurai said Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen respected the Dutch discussion and Nato would not interfere. The Secretary-General continues to believe that the best way forward for the mission would be a new smaller Dutch mission to consolidate the progress that the Dutch have made until now, and to help the process of transition to Afghan lead, he said. Parliamentary elections could be held mid-year at the earliest, but would probably be followed by months of talks between parties to form a government. The Dutch mission in Afghanistan, which started in 2006, is scheduled to end in August with the last of the troops leaving in December. Most are deployed in Uruzgan province. Elections are likely to be held before the summer, by June at the latest, Home Affairs Ministry spokesman Vincent van Steen told AFP. In a snap parliamentary debate Thursday, MPs accused Vice-Premier Wouter Bos of using the unpopular Afghanistan deployment for political gain ahead of March 3 municipal elections. Deputy defence minister and CDA member Jack De Vries said the future of the mission now depends on what the new government will decide. The mission in its current form, scheduled to run out by year-end, will be wound up as planned, added Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoops spokesman Joop Veen. The outgoing cabinet must make a list of all the decisions that it must still take, and of those it is leaving for the next cabinet.