Cowen rejects resignation claims

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The Independent Online

Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen today rejected claims he intends to resign after Budget 2011 is unveiled.

The Taoiseach insisted he had given no indication to party colleagues in Fianna Fail that he would step aside to allow a new leader to fight the imminent general election.

Mr Cowen outlined his intentions after claims from one of his backbenchers that he was set to go before Christmas.

Kildare South TD Sean Power said it was his understanding that the Taoiseach would not be at the helm when the party faces the electorate in the new year.

Ahead of unveiling the coalition Government's four year plan to make 15 billion euro (£12 billion) in savings, Mr Cowen rejected the notion.

"I have given no such indication to anybody, including Deputy Power," he told the Dail (parliament).

Mr Power is the latest Fianna Fail backbencher to break ranks and question Mr Cowen's position since the multi billion international bail out of the state's debt ridden finances was announced.

But while Mr Cowen has faced criticism from some in his party, high profile Cabinet colleagues have remained publicly loyal and no leadership bid has materialised.

Members of Fianna Fail's parliamentary held a crunch meeting last night to discuss the crisis, but the Taoiseach's position was not challenged.

While Mr Cowen has indicated his intention to call an election after the budget is passed, he has steered clear of specific questions about the poll, insisting that focus should remain on the spending plans.

Mr Power questioned the leader's position in his local radio station Kildare's KFM.