Compromise may break deadlock over OECD post

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The Independent Online
Members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are about to decide on a compromise that would finally break the embarrassing deadlock between the United States and European countries over who should be the next secretary-general of the industrial nations' economic think-tank.

A lengthy row about the succession to Jean-Claude Paye, the French diplomat who held the post for 10 years up to the end of June, had not been resolved by the time his term of office expired. The organisation appointed a caretaker head, Staffan Sohlman, who said he would do the job until 30 November.

Despite sitting until 3am of the last day of Mr Paye's tenure, ambassadors to the OECD could not decide between reappointing the Frenchman and replacing him with Donald Johnston, his Canadian rival. The European candidate mustered 15 votes compared with the North American's seven, but a consensus decision is needed. The three abstainers included Britain, which is backing Lord Lawson as a compromise.

The French and Canadian ambassadors to the OECD have suggested that Mr Paye should serve for another two years, followed by a five-year term for Mr Johnston.

The success of this proposal depends on the American reaction. Other countries would go along if the US agreed. Early signs are that it might accept if Mr Paye were reappointed for a shorter time.

If the latest attempt to find a compromise fails, it is likely that member countries will put a new batch of candidates forward. One suggestion is Renato Ruggiero, a former Italian trade minister, who could get the top OECD job as a consolation prize if he failed to become head of the new World Trade Organisation.

Another possible candidate is Henning Christophersen, the outgoing Danish European Commissioner. Lord Lawson, too, is still willing to have his name put forward.

However, most observers expect a version of the Franco- Canadian compromise to be accepted. One said: 'The row has lasted for over a year. It is time to put an end to the diplomatic fiddling around.'