Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted he remains fully "in charge" following comments by his deputy, Nick Clegg, that he "forgot" he was running the country while his boss was away.
Speaking in Oman on the final leg of his tour of the Middle East, Mr Cameron stressed: "Just because I leave the country doesn't mean I am not in charge."
He was responding to a newspaper interview in which the Deputy Prime Minister said he was looking forward to holidaying with his children at the end of the week and someone else would have to take over from him.
His comments came as the Government was facing heavy criticism over its response to the evacuation of British nationals desperate to escape the chaos engulfing Libya.
Asked if he was in charge of the country, Mr Clegg was quoted by Metro as saying: "Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that."
He added: "I'm holding the fort but I'm hoping to take the end of the week off with my kids. Someone else will have to do it then. It sounds more haphazard than it probably is."
The comments, which were dismissed by Mr Cameron as a "throwaway line", could be seized on by opponents as evidence that Mr Clegg has not been taking his role seriously enough.
Mr Cameron said: "I'm not absent, that is the way Government works. In the age of the BlackBerry, the telephone, the internet, just because I leave the country doesn't mean I am not in charge."
Later on Thursday he told Sky News: "The way things work is, just because I am in the Gulf doing an important tour, important in terms of promoting democracy and our values, important in terms of promoting British trade, obviously I have full connection back to the UK.
"I have been holding conference calls with the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. You are quoting something from a throwaway line in a newspaper article."