There is further political intrigue in Ireland where a further four of the prime minister’s cabinet have resigned.
The ministers of health, justice, transport and defence have all said they do not plan to stand in forthcoming elections. However, local media say the resignations pave the way for a cabinet reshuffle planned by Prime Minister Brian Cowen. The foreign affairs minister resigned earlier this week after apparently failing to oust Cowen in a would-be coup.
The prime minister won a vote of confidence in his leadership of the ruling Fianna Fail party on Tuesday.
The Irish Times newspaper says the four latest cabinet resignations are designed to enable Cowen to thwart efforts by his Green Party coalition partner to block a cabinet reshuffle.
Amid economic hardship in Ireland, early elections are due by the end of March.