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EU Gears Up to Appoint New President

Hours before European leaders meet in Brussels to choose the European Union's first permanent president, they remain divided on their choice.

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Lisa Bryant

Hours before European leaders meet in Brussels to choose the European Union's first permanent president, they remain divided on their choice.

Leaders from the 27 European Union states meet in Brussels for an early working dinner aimed to fill two key jobs: the EU's first ever permanent president, and what is essentially a permanent foreign minister for the bloc. The posts are part of larger changes under way in the EU, which recently adopted its first constitution.

The EU president will hold office for at least two and a half years instead of the current six month rotating presidency.

A number of current and former European leaders have been discussed as possible presidential candidates, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Observers say his chances have receded in recent weeks - while another politician, Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, has emerged as a leading contender. 

France and Germany are expected to vote for the same candidate. But everything else is up in the air. Janis Emmanouilidis is a senior analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels.

"It's very complicated," he said. "You have no consensus yet among the heads of state and government, among the member states. So it might take long, there might be an extension until the latest the weekend, but I think they will try to find a solution."

EU leaders are also divided over who to choose for their first permanent foreign policy chief. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, considered a favorite, does not appear to want the job.

Meanwhile, there are also calls for a female to fill one of the two new jobs.

"If you look at the EU's top jobs at present, there's no woman in power. Now a woman in power will play a strong role when it comes to deciding who will fill the two posts they're going to be talking about at the extraordinary summit - because Chancellor [Angela] Merkel will have a great say. But that wouldn't compensate for the fact there are no women in the tableau," said Emmanouilidis.

Emmanouilidis believes if EU leaders are deadlocked over the presidency job, a woman might emerge as a surprise choice.

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