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Europe

EU's Solana Enters Presidential Race

EU leaders agreed on a new constitution on Friday, but the bloc is still searching for the next Commission president. Now the union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said he wouldn't turn down the job.

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He'll do it if asked

Speaking at a conference in Sitges near Barcelona, Solana said he would take on the EU's top position if asked to do so.

"I think there are people who can do it better than I," he told reporters. "But if there was a consensus request by the political leaders of the European Union, it would be very hard for me to say no."

EU leaders at their summit in Brussels on Friday failed to agree on a new Commission president to replace Italy's Romano Prodi, who leaves office in October. The two front-runners, Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt and the EU's External relations Commissioner Chris Patten, who comes from Britain, dropped out of the race because neither could get the backing of a majority of member states. Verhofstadt, a liberal, had been supported by France and Germany. Patten had been the conservatives' candidate.

President or foreign minister?

Government officials in Solana's native Spain actually expect the former Spanish foreign minister and NATO secretary-general to take on the newly created position of EU foreign minister: Spain's foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, told reporters that it had been "practically decided" to hand the job to the 61-year-old. But Moratinos, who said Spain planned to become one of the first countries to ratify the new EU constitution, didn't rule out the possibility of the socialist becoming EU Commission president.

EU Gipfel in Brüssel Verfassung Bertie Ahern, Pat Cox, Romano Prodi

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, left, with EU Parliament President Pat Cox and Commission President Romano Prodi after Friday's summit

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern (photo, left), who holds the rotating EU Council presidency until the end of the month, said he hoped member states would agree on a new Commission president at a special summit within the next 10 days. Ahern himself has also been named as a possible Prodi successor.

Juncker still favorite

Luxembourg's Premier Jean-Claude Juncker, a Christian Democrat, has been widely seen as a compromise candidate that could receive support across the political spectrum. But Juncker, who fared well in recent parliamentary elections at home, has so far insisted that he will not move to Brussels.

Der neue französicher Aussenminister Barnier

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier

Other possible candidates for EU Commission president include Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel; Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen; Portuguese Premier Jose Manuel Durão Barroso; French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier (photo); Pat Cox, the outgoing EU Parliament president; Antonio Vitorino, the EU justice and home affairs commissioner from Portugal and former Finnish Premier Paavo Lipponen.

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