By Toby Helm and Bruno Waterfield in Lisbon
Tony Blair has been placed in the frame to become the first permanent President of the EU after France launched a campaign to install him in the powerful new Brussels job.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, touted the former Prime Minister as his preferred candidate after Gordon Brown and fellow leaders agreed the EU Reform Treaty, which establishes the new post from January 2009.
“I saw Tony Blair the night before last,” said Mr Sarkozy, referring to a dinner between the two men in Paris where the idea was discussed.
“He is a remarkable man, the most European of all the British.
“I do not know what his intentions are but that one could think of him as a possibility would be quite a smart move.”
A spokesman for Mr Blair has refused to rule out the move, saying only that he was “focused on his current role” as an international envoy to the Middle East.
The job, which could be done part-time, would involve Mr Blair coordinating EU policy and brokering agreements between leaders of the 27 member states.
It is expected to carry a salary and perks package of at least £200,000 a year.
While Downing Street appeared cautious, hinting Mr Blair might not be the choice of many EU leaders because of the Iraq war, Mr Brown gave his initial backing.
However, he said it was too early to get involved in such discussions, because the Reform Treaty had not yet passed into law.
The job, which would run for a two and half year term and is renewable once, has been established to replace the existing system of rotating six-month presidencies between member states.
Heads of government will choose the President by a majority vote.
Mr Sarkozy suggested Jean-Claude Juncker, the long-serving Prime Minister of Luxembourg, as an alternative to Mr Blair.
The new EU Treaty also establishes a new EU foreign policy chief and a European diplomatic service. However Mr Brown again rejected calls for a referendum.
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Sarkozy and Brown push Blair for EU presidency
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain endorsed Tony Blair on Friday to be the European Union’s first permanent president