Belgium has taken a major step toward banning burqa-type Islamic dress in public when its lower house of parliament overwhelmingly backed the measure.

After Thursday's approval, the senate still has several weeks to decide whether to put the bill up for further discussion and another vote.

The Belgian legislature already came close to approving such legislation last year, but the process was held up at the last moment when the governing coalition collapsed.

On Thursday, the bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of 136-1 and two abstentions.