Brian Cowen takes over foreign affairs as minister quits

Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen is to take over the Foreign Affairs portfolio after a rebel minister quit following a failed leadership challenge.

Mr Cowen confirmed Micheal Martin's resignation had been accepted by President Mary McAleese and he would take over the role for the "time being".

The Taoiseach made the announcement after talks with junior coalition Government partners the Greens.

It is understood Mr Cowen met Green leader John Gormley for more than an hour and a half today at Government Buildings to discuss a timetable for a general election and passing the Finance Bill and other legislation.

Voters are expected to go to the polls within the next three months, possibly March 25.

Enda Kenny, leader of the main Opposition party Fine Gael, took a swipe at the Taoiseach after he confirmed Mr Martin's resignation in the Dail (parliament).

"I hope it does not turn out like out some other things you've taken charge of," Mr Kenny said.