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Blair tipped for EU presidency

LONDON, Oct 2 – Former prime minister Tony Blair is in line to become Europe’s first president within weeks if voters pass an EU reform treaty, a newspaper reported on Friday, quoting unnamed sources.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is supporting Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has softened her opposition, according to The Times.

Blair could be ushered into the European Union’s top post at a summit on October 29 if the Lisbon Treaty passes, the London-based newspaper said.

Ireland heads to the polls on Friday in a referendum on the European Union’s reforming treaty which sets out the new job. Opinion polls suggest Ireland will pass the treaty after rejecting it at a vote last year.

Nations currently preside over the EU, holding a rotating presidency for six months at a time, but under the Lisbon Treaty, a single president will be chosen.

The treaty has been ratified by 24 of the 27 member states, with the signatures of the Polish and Czech presidents needed for full ratification.

Merkel has been opposed to Blair because she believed the post should go to a country that had adopted the euro, but she could reconsider if Germany and France get plum posts in the new European Commission, The Times said.

Britain’s press have increasingly reported in recent days that Blair is "on the brink" of securing the job, but the ex-prime minister has in the past denied campaigning for the position.

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"There is no campaign. As we have said time and again on this, there is nothing to be a candidate for since the job doesn’t actually exist," a Blair spokesman said in July.

Since stepping down as prime minister in June 2007, Blair has been the envoy for the Middle East Quartet – comprising the EU, Russia, the United Nations and the United States – which aims to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.

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