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By Darren Ennis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will hold a special summit on November 19 to name a president and foreign policy chief to give the 27-nation bloc greater sway in world affairs and streamline its cumbersome decision-making processes.
The appointments are being made under the EU's Lisbon reform treaty and are intended to give the bloc more global clout as emerging powers such as China become more influential following the global economic crisis.
Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy is expected to be nominated as the preferred candidate for president by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt -- who is leading the negotiations -- when EU leaders meet over dinner next week, diplomats said.
But finding a suitable Socialist candidate for EU High Representative to balance the relatively low-profile Conservative Van Rompuy is proving more difficult following Britain's reluctance to allow foreign secretary David Miliband to run for the post.
"If we called the summit today, Van Rompuy would be the new EU president," one diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters Wednesday.
"Van Rompuy and Miliband was the dream ticket, but Britain has not nominated Miliband. He has a young family and has one eye on the future Labour Party leadership."
Speaking at a press conference with German counterpart Guido Westerwelle, Miliband confirmed he had no plans to become EU foreign policy chief.
"When I said that I was not a candidate for the post of high representative, I meant it. I'm committed to Britain and I am committed to the Labour Government," he said.
Britain's current European commissioner Catherine Ashton, the EU's trade chief, could emerge as potential compromise for high representative instead of Miliband, a second diplomat said.
Other front-runners for the foreign policy post include former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, who is Finnish, and former Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.
Reinfeldt told reporters in Brussels he had called the other 26 EU leaders over the past two days for their nominations for the two lucrative posts.
"My intention is to put forward one candidate per job and make it clear that they have the required support," he said.
"I have finalised the first consultation round. When you actually speak to all 26 colleagues you get more names than we have jobs to offer. That means we will need more consultations."
Reinfeldt has made clear the president of the Council of EU leaders, a new post, is likely to be chosen from among sitting or former heads of government.
Van Rompuy, 62, has consensus-building skills that could suit Germany and France, traditional driving forces in the EU.
"If Van Rompuy retains the support of Paris until next week, he is the most likely compromise candidate," an EU diplomat close to the negotiations said.
BLAIR STILL IN
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker are still in the running.
Blair's chances are limited by his backing for the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by Britain's absence from the list of 16 countries that use the euro currency.
Diplomats said Prime Minister Gordon Brown reiterated his backing for Blair in his phone call with Reinfeldt.
He also repeated Britain's preference for a large economic portfolio within the next European Commission rather than the foreign post. The high representative will also be a member of the 27-member EU executive.
Filling the EU's so-called top jobs has been marred by power struggles among small and large member states and conflicting visions of what role the politicians would play in Brussels.
The EU is calling an extra summit, even though it has a regular summit scheduled on December 10-11, because it wants to speed up the appointments.
A new European Commission, the EU executive, can be installed only when the two jobs are filled. Any delays could cause problems because it would mean the commission had to operate for a prolonged period on a caretaker basis.
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Tim Heritage, Justyna Pawlak and Keith Weir in London; Editing by Louise Ireland)