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Ireland's embattled prime minister denies being drunk, hung over; opposition demands election

DUBLIN (AP) — Prime Minister Brian Cowen is resisting calls for an early election in Ireland amid fears about the nation's debt troubles — and his own ability to steer the country through the crisis.

Cowen was repeatedly accused by politicians and commentators on Irish radio Tuesday of being drunk or hung over after he gave a croaky interview to state radio. He often offered vague, semi-coherent answers to questions on Ireland's battle to save its banks and reverse its deficit.

Asked by a reporter about speculation he was struggling from the aftereffects of late-night drinking, Cowen replied curtly, "That's ridiculous."

Cowen's Fianna Fail party has a shaky parliamentary majority. His government faces re-election by 2012.