Paris threatens delay on Draghi as ECB head: report

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France is threatening to delay the appointment of Italy's Mario Draghi as the new head of the European Central Bank if a French official is not given a seat on the bank's executive board, a report said on Thursday.

At issue is whether an Italian should leave the board to make way for a French official.

Draghi's appointment was due to be formalised before the weekend but the US-based daily the Wall Street Journal cited unnamed French officials as saying that this could be postponed.

The officials said the appointment could be pushed back until Paris gets an assurance that Italy will not have two seats on the ECB's six-person governing board.

France has previously insisted that it fully supported Draghi's bid to become the next head of the ECB.

French officials could not be reached immediately to comment on the report.

Current ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet of France stands down in October and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has insisted that, under an unwritten rule, the major eurozone countries should each have a seat on the ECB board.

To ensure a French presence, Sarkozy agreed earlier this year with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to support Draghi on the basis that Italian ECB board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi would make way for a French candidate.

Berlusconi has asked Smaghi to resign but he has refused to budge, insisting that the ECB is an independent body which does not bow to political pressure, as inscribed in the Maastricht treaty which created the eurozone.

A key European Parliament committee earlier this month approved Draghi's appointment to head the ECB following a US-style confirmation hearing.

The full parliament is due to ratify the decision on Thursday, the same day European Union leaders open a summit at which they are to give their final endorsement.

© 2011 AFP

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