Ex-PM Blair UK choice for EU prez

LONDON: Britain would back its former Prime Minister Tony Blair to become president of the European Union - a post to be created if the new EU Treaty is adopted by all 27 nations in the bloc, a government official said Wednesday.

Britain's Europe minister Glenys Kinnock said Blair, who led the country's government for 10 years until 2007, could step into the role and be "generally welcomed." "The U.K. Government is supporting Tony Blair's candidature for president of the Council (of EU governments)," she told reporters in Strasbourg, France.

She did not say if Blair had been approached about the job, only that her statement represented the British government's position.

The new EU charter - called the Lisbon Treaty and designed to streamline decision-making - must still be approved by Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ireland before going into effect.

Ireland is the only country planning a referendum in October on the issue, after Irish voters rejected the treaty a year ago. Since then, Dublin has won concessions it hopes will appease voters worried about forfeiting sovereignty to Brussels.

The EU hopes that creating a new presidential post, as well as a chief of foreign affairs, will raise the bloc's international profile and give it more clout in negotiations, as the president and foreign affairs chief could speak on behalf of all 27 EU members.

Downing Street spokesman Michael Ellam also said that, if Blair were to stand for the presidency, "of course the government would support him." "I think it's a matter for Tony Blair as to whether he wants to put himself forward as a candidate," Ellam said.

Blair currently is serving as Middle East envoy to the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, who include the United Nations, the United States, the EU and Russia.

Blair's spokesman Matthew Doyle denied there was a campaign for the position, saying "there is nothing to be a candidate for since, the job doesn't actually exist." There is no official list of contenders, though Blair's name has long been linked with the possible position. Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007 called Blair "a great candidate" to become the bloc's first EU president.