BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Colombian President Ernesto Samper will support Europe's front-running candidate in the struggle for leadership of the new World Trade Organization, European Union officials said Monday.

Mexico, however, remains undecided on backing former Italian trade minister Renato Ruggiero, said Mexican Foreign Minister Jose Angel Gurria. Samper and Gurria were in Brussels to discuss relations with the 15-nation EU.

The credibility of the WTO, set up Jan. 1 to implement a sweeping global trade accord, has suffered from months of bickering over the director general post. Acting head Peter Sutherland is expected to step down March 15.

Both Colombia and Mexico had previously supported former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who withdrew recently when his brother was charged in a political assassination. Gortari also was favored by the United States.

The EU and a majority of the WTO's 116 member states have given their backing to Ruggiero, but Asian nations are pushing the candidacy of Kim Chulsu of South Korea.

Washington has so far refused to back Ruggiero, infuriating the Europeans and puzzling other diplomats by suggesting the prospect of a third candidate.

EU Commission President Jacques, scheduled to meet South Korean President Kim Yung Sam in Brussels on Tuesday, is expected to ask Seoul to help break the months-long stalemate by swinging its support to Ruggiero.