EU leaders on Friday appointed Italy's Mario Draghi the next president of the European Central Bank, with his first task being to lead the euro safely out of a debilitating eurozone debt crisis.
"Mario Draghi will be the new president of the European Central Bank" as of November 1, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said.
The appointment of the 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs banker to succeed Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet was supposed to have been announced Thursday but was held up as France insisted that it get a place on the ECB board in return.
Italy is already represented by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi and with Draghi's appointment France would be left without a seat at the top and so it demanded that Bini Smaghi make way for one of its officials.
However, Bini Smaghi has refused to move, noting that the ECB is supposed to be independent and free of all political influence.
The confirmation was supposed to be a mere formality after Draghi received the backing of the eurozone's 17 foreign ministers and the European Parliament.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy had always expressed support for Draghi in the run-up to the EU summit here and obtained a commitment from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that the Italian leader would ask Bini Smaghi to resign.
A European diplomat said Bini Smaghi spoke by telephone with EU president Herman Van Rompuy and Sarkozy, and in the conversation "committed to leave at the end of the year."
Bini Smaghi is willing to step down in exchange for his nomination to head the Bank of Italy, succeeding Draghi, according to several sources.
However, the powerful coalition partner of Berlusconi, the Northern League, wants a different candidate for the post.
The last-minute bargaining came as a distraction just as Europeans seek to resolve a Greek debt crisis threatening the eurozone's very existence.
Nicknamed "Super Mario" at home, Draghi acquired international status during the global economic crisis by overseeing a process of reforms as head of the Financial Stability Board, a group charged by leading world economies to reform the world banking system.