Berlusconi demands banker quits 'for good of country'

23rd October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday called on his country's European Central Bank (ECB) board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to resign "for the good of the country."

Berlusconi is under severe pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to get Bini Smaghi out.

The idea is that he should be replaced by a Frenchman when another Italian, Mario Draghi, takes over from France's Jean-Claude Trichet at the head of the ECB.

The handover was intended for the end of October, and Berlusconi said he would speak to Sarkozy during the Brussels summit on Sunday about Bini Smaghi's refusal to quit.

"Bini Smaghi must understand the situation," Berlusconi said in Brussels after attending pre-EU summit talks with conservative allies, including Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Bini Smaghi held a position to which he was not elected but nominated for by the government, the Italian premier said.

"Now he has to resign -- he has to understand the situation for the good of the country," Berlusconi underlined.

When Draghi was chosen to lead the ECB by European Union leaders in June, officials widely speculated that Bini Smaghi would resign -- in exchange for the top job at the Bank of Italy.

But Berlusconi on Thursday nominated deputy director general Ignazio Visco to that post.

France backed Draghi's candidature for the ECB post on condition that a French candidate would take Bini Smaghi's place.

That followed an unwritten rule that no country should hold two seats on the ECB board at the same time.

© 2011 AFP

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