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German party cool on Blair for EU

Tony Blair and Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel will make the final decision on whether to back Tony Blair

A senior politician in Germany has cast doubt on the suitability of British former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be president of the European Council.

The chief whip of Germany's Free Democrats - the junior partner in the country's new coalition - said he would prefer someone from a smaller country.

Mr Blair is the most high-profile name in the frame for the new EU job.

But the prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, has emerged as a serious rival.

While some countries have expressed support for Mr Blair's candidacy, others are cooler on the idea. Germany, the most powerful nation in the EU, has yet to declare its position.

'Europe too dominated'

The chief whip of Germany's Free Democrats, Joerg van Essen, explained his party's position.

"We know Tony Blair for a very long time but I must admit there is a sympathy in my party for candidates from a smaller country," he told the BBC.

"We want to bring European countries closer together, and I think if someone is from a smaller country these people are more sensitive and they know the problems of the smaller ones, and I think that would be helpful for Europe. Europe is too dominated by the biggest ones."

HAVE YOUR SAY
The EU should have no-one as its president. It is, and always was a treading block and giving it a president will merely blur the line between economic co-operation and political intervention
idle eric, Portsmouth, UK

The leader of the Free Democrats, Guido Westerwelle, is Germany's new foreign minister, and so in a position to influence Germany's decision.

However it will be the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is expected to make the final decision who to back, says the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Berlin.

The role of president of the European Council is still not defined, but it will involve chairing EU summits and representing the EU on the world stage.

The role will be created if and when the EU's Lisbon Treaty is approved. The Czech Republic is the only country yet to ratify the treaty, but it is under pressure to do so soon.



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