BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Parliament rejected a government proposal to hold legislative and presidential elections next month after a heated, six-hour debate Monday.

The 240-182 vote by a joint-session of the bicameral parliament defeated an effort to hold the elections July 26. They are likely instead to be held in the fall.

The United States and other Western countries have pressed Romania to hold elections as soon as possible to prove that democracy has taken root, and are witholding trade privileges and credits until the balloting is completed.

Parliamentary speaker Alexandru Birladeanu, an opponent of the election proposal, said the delay ''means we are taking elections seriously.''

But critics charged that legislators voted against the plan because of narrow party interests and a desire to maintain their incomes through the fall.

''Gentlemen, go home already 3/8'' Geza Domokos, leader of the Democratic Union of Hungarians, said from the rostrum.

Premier Theodor Stolojan said the delay in the elections was exacerbating the difficulties of Romania's transition from a socialist to a market economy.

He said foreign credits, investment and commercial treaties, and Romania's integration into Europe, were being delayed as a result.

The current parliament was elected in May 1990, five months after Nicolae Ceausescu's communist dictatorship was overthrown in a bloody uprising. It approved a democratic constitution in December.

Since then lawmakers have stymied efforts by Stolojan to hold elections quickly.

President Ion Iliescu was expected to summon party leaders later this week to work out a compromise date for the elections.