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EU Bank Presidency Still Debated

March 12, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and French President Jacques Chirac reported no progress Thursday in resolving their standoff over who should lead the European Union’s planned central bank.

``France is tenaciously holding to the view″ that the job should go to its central bank governor, Jean-Claude Trichet, Kok said.

Kok continued to support Wim Duisenberg, a former Dutch central banker and the current president of the European Monetary Institute, the forerunner of the EU central bank. The central bank will conduct monetary policy for the single euro currency, due to debut Jan. 1.

Filling the job has led to a Franco-Dutch standoff in which the Netherlands argues Duisenberg has the widest backing among the 15 EU nations, including economic powerhouse Germany.

Kok and Chirac discussed the impasse on the sidelines of a 26-nation European summit.

Chirac declined to answer reporters’ questions on the issue.

At his press conference, Kok said, ``Duisenberg is our candidate and remains so (but) we have no reason to say a solution is in sight.″

At a May 2 summit in Brussels, Belgium, the EU leaders are expected to name 11 nations that will join the single currency program.

They must also name a central bank chief, though Kok acknowledged that decision could be delayed since the position does not open up until January.

There has been speculation in Germany _ which backs Duisenberg but wants no fight with France _ that the dispute could be resolved by splitting the job’s eight-year term between the two countries. Duisenberg, under that scenario, would step down after four years, ceding the post to Trichet.

The Netherlands opposes sharing the job with France.

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