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Italy backs Blair for EU president

Frattini says he has the 'stature and charisma' for the job

14 October, 17:36

(ANSA) - Riyadh, October 14 - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday reiterated Rome's support for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to take the future post of European Council president envisioned under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union's revised governing charter which is expected to go into effect next year.

Speaking to the press on the sidelines of his visit to the Saudi capital, Frattini said Blair was ''authoritative and charismatic'' and that it was imperative that he be elected with broad support.

''We still need to work to overcome the reservations of some countries. What we cannot allow to happen is for a split to emerge when we vote,'' the foreign minister said.

In Blair's favor, Frattini observed, was that he ''has the stature of a statesman. He is a pro-Europe Briton, or at least a Briton who has fewer doubts about Europe, and this is important''.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, which now only needs to be ratified by the Czech Republic, the president of the European Council will be elected by the council itself, made up of all heads of state or government, for a two-year term.

Until now the Council president was the government chief of the country which held the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

The future Council president will not be allowed to hold any office outside the EU and it may be possible to merge this post with that of the president of European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi has repeatedly come out in favor of Blair and on Wednesday in a letter to Il Foglio said he agreed with the right-wing daily which has come out in favor of Blair for EC president. EU leaders are set to elect a future EC president at their summit in December and, once approved by the Czech Republic, the Lisbon Treaty will go into effect on January 1.

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