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Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said it is unclear how the Government and the EU will proceed following Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's This Week programme, Mr Cowen said we were in 'uncharted territory' and 'we must now chart that territory'.

He said the referendum result left Ireland and the EU in a dilemma and that there was no 'quick fix'.

Mr Cowen added that, if a solution could not be found, the Lisbon Treaty could not come into effect across Europe.

The Taoiseach said he wanted Ireland to remain a constructive member of the EU and that Ireland's future was at the heart of the EU.

Mr Cowen said that his job was to make sure 'our interests in Europe were not compromised' by the referendum result.

He also admitted that the result showed that the Yes side could have run a more effective referendum campaign.

Mr Cowen will join British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Belfast tomorrow for the visit of George W Bush. The two leaders are expected to discuss the implications of Thursday's No Vote in the Lisbon referendum.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said Mr Cowen now needed to tell the EU that Lisbon was 'finished' and a new Treaty was required.

He said the Treaty in its current form, or with a number of small changes to it, could not be put to the Irish people again.

Mr Adams described the No result as a big victory 'for common sense and democracy'.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband earlier said it was up to Mr Cowen to decide whether or not 'to apply the last rites' to the Lisbon Treaty.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Miliband said there was no question of bulldozing the Irish into voting for the Treaty again, or ignoring the Irish vote.

He said the British government would continue with its ratification process, but conceded the Lisbon Treaty would not come into law if the Irish do not pass it.

Speaking in Korea, French Economic Minister Christine Lagarde said she had high hopes that the EU would soon have another Treaty on reforms to replace the one rejected in Ireland.

Meanwhile Spain's minister for the EU has predicted the Lisbon Treaty would come into force within months despite Irish voters' rejection of it in a referendum.

The treaty, ‘will be applied, albeit a few months late,’ Diego Lopez Garrido, Spain's secretary of state for EU affairs, was quoted  as saying by the daily El Pais.

The Irish ‘no’ vote ‘is not good, but it should not be dramatised either,’ he said.

Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty by 110,000 votes - a margin of 53.4% to 46.6%, in this week's referendum.

First EU talks

European foreign ministers will gather tomorrow to take a first look at the EU's battered reform plans after Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Micheál MartinThe ministers, in a day of talks in Luxembourg, will want to hear from Minister Micheál Martin (right) on whether the Government believes anything more can be done to get Ireland to accept the painstakingly assembled document.

Ireland's No vote has set the scene for a tense two-day summit in Brussels starting Thursday. There, the ministers will be looking for clues to the way ahead.

Ahead of the Luxembourg talks - which will also include an update on the EU mission in Kosovo, Iran's nuclear programme, and developments the Middle East and Burma - leaders have insisted that the final eight countries should endorse the text.

Nicolas SarkozyFrance takes over the EU's rotating presidency next month, and yesterday French President Nicolas Sarkozy (left) said ratification of the Treaty must continue, 'so that the Irish incident does not become a crisis'.

His European Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet was more blunt, telling French radio there was 'no other solution' than for Ireland to hold a second popular referendum, but that the vote should not be rushed.

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said, the Union should in no case be held up.

Attempts to clean up the EU's institutional house, so that it can run smoothly with 27 nations, have been held up for the best part of a decade.

The last attempt, the draft constitution, was stopped dead in its tracks by French and Dutch voters three years ago.

The previous shot, the Nice Treaty was rejected once by the Irish but voted through a year later with their concerns taken into account. This is the document the EU will continue to work under until its institutional blues are solved.

However, as EU leaders lean toward moving ahead with Lisbon, they again risk being accused of ignoring their citizens.

Even if EU leaders press Ireland for a new vote at the summit, it is unclear what changes could be made to satisfy the Irish public.