Chances of Tony Blair becoming the European Union's first president has dimmed as socialist leaders from the continent have refused to back their Labour Party colleague.
The French also leaned away from Blair over his role in the Iraq war and resistance to British use of the euro -- and suggested a woman might make a better candidate.
Blair's charisma and international cachet may be working against him, too. In a race where no one has formally declared candidacy and the job is still ill-defined, there are as many nations that want a low-key technocrat as those that want a towering figure who can go head to head with other global powers.
European socialists, meeting in the margin of a EU summit yesterday, said they want the new EU foreign affairs chief to be a left-wing politician, said Dutch Europe Minister Frans Timmermans.
That choice would effectively ban Blair from the president's job, as leftists cannot fill both top EU jobs that become available next year.
The "no" to Blair from continental socialists kept alive a race to fill the posts of EU president and foreign ministers, two jobs created by a hard-fought EU reform treaty due to take effect in January.
Blair was an early candidate. His rivals are believed to include the Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende, Belgian leader Herman Van Rompuy, Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker and Finnish ex-premier Paavo Lipponen.