Portuguese prime minister accepts EU's top job

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The Independent Online

Portugal's conservative prime minister, Jose Durao Barroso, said today that he has decided to accept an invitation to become the next European Commission president.

"I will accept the invitation I was given," Durao Barroso told reporters.

He was to travel later today to Brussels where his appointment to the European Union's top job was due to be confirmed at a meeting of the bloc's 25 leaders.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country holds the EU presidency, spent weeks searching for a candidate acceptable to all member states, offered Durao Barroso the job Sunday after saying the Portuguese prime minister had unanimous support in EU capitals.

Romano Prodi of Italy, the current commission president, is due to step down at the end of October when his five-year-term ends.

Durao Barroso, a 48-year-old former foreign minister, has been a vocal supporter of US policy on Iraq and has also backed deeper EU integration.

His announcement came midway through his four-year mandate as prime minister. No date was set for his departure from the government.

Durao Barroso announced his decision after meetings earlier today with his cabinet, senior officials in his Social Democratic Party and President Jorge Sampaio.

Sampaio must now decide whether to allow the Social Democrats to name Durao Barroso's successor as prime minister or call an early general election.

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