Belgian police have used a water cannon and tear gas in central Brussels to drive back protesters inspired by France's "yellow vest" anti-tax movement who threw rocks at the prime minister's office.

Police made dozens of arrests and protesters destroyed at least two police vans as what started as a peaceful but unauthorised demonstration, lacking clear leadership and largely promoted on social media, descended into violence when people, many masked or hooded, tried to breach police lines.

For three hours, crowds complaining about fuel prices and a squeeze on living standards had disrupted traffic and walked the streets.

Police said they had arrested about 60 people before the violence, mostly for blocking roads or carrying large fireworks.

Several hundred people wearing the fluorescent safety vests drivers must carry in their vehicles eventually converged on the office of Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Dozens, many of them masked, threw rocks, fireworks and road signs at police who doused them with high-pressure water jets and fired gas rounds.

The disturbances lasted for over an hour before riot police surrounded and then arrested some demonstrators while the rest of the crowd dispersed.

Police put the total number of protesters at about 500.

A police car is toppled during the protest in Brussels

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Mr Michel tweeted: "No impunity for unacceptable violence in Brussels. Those who came to smash and loot must be punished."

Protests in Belgium, notably around fuel depots in the French-speaking south, have been inspired by the "yellow vest" - or "gilet jaune" - actions in France against increases in fuel duty imposed by President Emmanuel Macron's government as part of efforts to reduce emissions causing global warming.

"Michel, resign!" people shouted today.

Mr Michel, a liberal ally of Mr Macron, voiced sympathy for people's troubles, but added: "Money doesn't fall from the sky." His centre-right coalition faces an election in May.

Meanwhile in France, attempts by the government to negotiate with the "yellow vest" movement failed after just two representatives turned up for a meeting with the prime minister and one immediately walked out.