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British press hits out at EU jobs haggling

LONDON – "UK’s new Belgian boss is a clown," said the Daily Express front page headline, referring to the small EU founder state’s Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, who is favoured to win the new job.

The tabloid pictured Van Rompuy sporting a red nose and a clown’s hat in a recent election poster by his sister’s rival political party in Belgium.

The attacks come as EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday evening for what is shaping up to be a marathon summit to agree the president and a foreign policy supremo to represent Europe on the world stage.

The two jobs were created under the 27-bloc’s Lisbon Treaty, which was finally ratified this month after years of political wrangling over how to streamline the expanding EU’s decision-making process.

The Guardian said anger was mounting among leaders from the 27-nation bloc over a reported deal between Germany and France to back Van Rompuy for the coveted post of president.

The newspaper said the contest for the top job seems "dominated now more by tactics and one-upmanship than strategy and policy."

"A very unseemly squabble about individuals," one EU official was quoted saying. "It’s not very inspiring."

The Independent said: "The finals of the European Job Contest will take place in Brussels tonight, without the cheap glitter of the musical version but with the same sort of secret, national horse-trading and, most probably, the same kind of unmemorable winners."

Former British premier Tony Blair refused to be drawn Wednesday on his prospects of becoming EU president, which appear to have dimmed as EU nations have voiced doubts about his role in taking Britain into war in Iraq.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband was highly fancied for the High Representative on foreign affairs, but ruled himself out of consideration last week.