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Dutchman a Favorite To Lead Euro

May 1, 1998

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ It’s easy to see why the Dutch _ and many of their neighbors _ back Wim Duisenberg with such fervor to be the first president of the new European Central Bank.

He’s credited with helping to turn this small country into a European economic power well beyond its size.

The silver-haired president of the European Monetary Institute _ forerunner of the central bank _ is a determined advocate of strong and stable money.

``Monetary stability and consistency of policy have been among the top priorities of his presidency,″ Duisenberg’s successor as president of the Dutch Central Bank, Nout Wellink, wrote recently.

Duisenberg turned the Dutch guilder into one of Europe’s strongest currencies, ushered in a period of price stability and pushed down interest rates.

He is the first choice of Germany and other European Union countries to lead their central bank, which will guide monetary policy with the launch of the euro currency in January.

``Duisenberg stands for stability and (his appointment) would be a positive signal to the financial markets,″ said German opposition leader Gerhard Schroeder.

At 62, Duisenberg shows no signs of slowing down.

He also opposes splitting the eight-year presidency of the European Central Bank _ as some have suggested to resolve the dispute between Germany and France over who should lead the bank. France is pushing its central banker, Jean-Claude Trichet, for the post.

``The job is for eight years,″ Duisenberg says. ``I am now 62 years old and still have plenty of time.″

Duisenberg spent 16 years at the helm of the Dutch National Bank, quitting last July to head up the European Monetary Institute.

A member of the center-left Labor Party, he was drafted into the 1973-77 Labor-Christian Democrat ruling coalition as finance minister.

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