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Cowen vows to remain as leader

Taoiseach Brian Cowen tonight confirmed he would remain as leader of his ruling Fianna Fail party.

Mr Cowen said it was in the best interests of the country and the party.

The Taoiseach said his Fianna Fail parliamentary party would hold a secret ballot on Tuesday on a motion of no confidence in him as leader.

After two days of consultation with colleagues, Mr Cowen said he had come to the conclusion that stepping down would lead to confusion and loss of authority.

"As Taoiseach my total focus must remain with discharging my duties to the people," he said.

"For Fianna Fail the party is important but the interests of the country are paramount."

Mr Cowen said he had no considered resigning.

"No. I made no indication of resigning at any time as leader of the party," he said.

The Taoiseach accepted there was "an issue" over leadership but said that question should be resolved quickly.

Under normal Fianna Fail party rules, a leader would only face a vote on the leadership if a parliamentary party member put forward a motion of no confidence.

He said he wanted to dispense with procedures and put forward the motion himself for a vote when TDs and Senators meet next, expected on Tuesday.

Concerns over the Taoiseach's leadership came to a head in the last week after he was publicly grilled in the Dail on Wednesday on his contacts with former Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean FitzPatrick.

Under pressure, he revealed the names of two other business chiefs who joined him and Mr FitzPatrick for a post-golf match dinner in Druid's Glen, Co Wicklow - Gary McGann, chief executive of Smurfit Kappa, who was a director of Anglo at the time, and Alan Gray, an economist appointed to the Central Bank board by Mr Cowen.

The Taoiseach tonight rejected that his Anglo contacts were at issue.

"The issue here is not about that at all," he said.

"All members of the parliamentary party acknowledge my good faith in relation to all of these issues.

"My standing in the party is not under question in any way."