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PETERBOROUGH, ONT. - A chagrined Michael Ignatieff this morning lambasted a Toronto Star story that says he is considering a job at the University of Toronto, describing the report as "fiction."

"I don't know where he got it from," the Liberal Leader responded, when asked about a piece by columnist James Travers saying informal overtures had indirectly been made to Mr. Ignatieff to replace Janice Gross Stein as director of the Munk School of Global Affairs, should he lose the next election.

"Do I look like someone who is campaigning for any other job than being prime minister of the country?" said Mr. Ignatieff, who is just days into an arduous six-week bus tour to promote his and his party's fortunes.

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When asked whether he or anyone associated with him had had any contact with anyone associated with the Munk Centre about any possible future there, he replied: "No. Absolutely, categorically no."

Before returning to Canada to enter federal politics in 2005, Mr. Ignatieff had been in discussions to join the foreign-policy institute. The Liberal Leader had held a similar position at Harvard University.

But those discussions ended when he ran for Parliament, Mr. Ignatieff said, and had not resumed, even though the Munk Centre is seeking a replacement to Ms. Stein, who is stepping down.

Leaders of opposition parties that are behind in the polls - as the Liberals have been for a year now - are subject to attacks from disgruntled members within their party, as well as from the opposition.

Mr. Ignatieff has repeatedly had to tamp down speculation from those associated with former prime minister Jean Chr├ętien or Liberal MP Bob Rae that the party should consider merging with the NDP, or that Mr. Ignatieff's leadership was not long for this world.

Coming at the launch of this bus tour, and distracting attention from it, the rumours of talks of an exit strategy for Mr. Ignatieff may be simply mischief-making from within the Liberal Party's own ranks, which at times has done a far better job of undermining its leader than the Conservatives could ever hope to achieve.

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