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Gordon Brown backs Tony Blair for top EU post

world Updated: Oct 28, 2009 23:00 IST

Tony Blair's undeclared, behind-the-scenes bid for the presidency of the European Union received a boost on Wednesday when his old Labour Party rival, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, offered his endorsement.

Brown told Parliament he would back Blair once the new post has been created, and once Blair expresses his desire for the job.

"We will be very happy to support him," Brown told British lawmakers as speculation mounted about wavering support for Blair both at home and on the European continent.

Blair is the most prominent politician in the running for the new post, which will be established once the Lisbon Treaty is signed.

But he faces formidable opposition from Britain's opposition Conservative Party, which is leading in national opinion polls and is expected to gain power in general elections, to be held by June.

Conservative Party lawmaker Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, said party leaders have been advising European leaders that choosing Blair would be a serious mistake.

"He's not the right person for the job," Rifkind said. "I think Blair's background, including his support for the war in Iraq, make him unsuitable."

It is also not clear if Blair has the backing of key European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The presidency is expected to be discussed at a two-day EU summit set to begin in Brussels tomorrow.