Irish Prime Minister refuses to step down

Irish prime Minister Brian Cowen has announced that he is not quitting his position as party leader and prime minister despite major internal dissension in the Fianna Fail party that he leads.

He stated he would put his leadership to a vote of the parliamentary party on Tuesday.

Cowen was speaking at a special Sunday afternoon press conference in a Dublin hotel amid fevered speculation that he will resign.

His statement means that he will very likely be leading the Fianna Fail party into the next election, expected in March, unless his main challenger, Micheal Martin, manages to secure a vote of no confidence on Tuesday.

By staying in power despite very poor opinion poll numbers, Cowen has put it up to his opponents within the party to back him or sack him.

It now remains to be seen if Foreign Minisier Martin will decide on a high risk strategy to try and replace Cowen before the election.

Weekend reports stated that Martin had told Cowen he would give him a week to resign from last Monday or he would challenge him. Cowen has now thrown down the gauntlet and dared Martin to try.