Pressure mounts as Brian Cowen denies clinging to power

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Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen tonight denied he was clinging to power as the Opposition directly demanded he bring forward next month's Budget.

Under enormous pressure from within the parliament and his own party to resign, a subdued Mr Cowen dismissed calls to revise a timetable to strike a deal on the 90 billion euro bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe.

"There is no question, the characterisation of clinging to office, being my motivation. That is not my motivation," the Taoiseach told the Dail (parliament).

"My sole motivation is to ensure that the four-year plan is published, as agreed with the people with whom we are dealing, and that a budget is passed by the House, put to the House."

The four-year plan setting out 15 billion euro savings will be published tomorrow afternoon in Dublin.

Budget 2011 is due on December 7 and, along with the 2014 roadmap, the documents are expected to pave the way for social welfare cuts, reductions in the 8.65 euro minimum wage and new or increased taxes.

Mr Cowen said the timeline has been agreed with European Commissioner Olli Rehn, who suggested earlier he wanted to see the detail of the recovery policies sooner rather than later.

"My sole motivation is to ensure that a four-year plan is published... and that a budget is passed by this House," the Taoiseach said.

The legalities of passing a budget in Ireland mean that the new year general election which Mr Cowen has agreed to could be pushed back as far as late February or March.