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The chances of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband becoming the European Union’s foreign policy chief are improving.

Italian Massimo D’Alema’s communist past is considered a handicap by EU countries with nasty memories of Soviet hegemony, a diplomat said. Yet while Miliband’s Labour credentials may appeal more to eastern EU states, he is not the British Conservatives’ cup of tea. As they are confident of winning general elections next year, they do not relish the prospect of political cohabitation with a former rival packing a powerful European punch. Timothy Kirkhope, an MEP with the European Conservatives and Reformists, said: “At the moment, Milliband’s name does keep coming up. I think it would be pretty disastrous, and certainly for an incoming Conservative government point of view we would find it extremely difficult to have a former socialist foreign secretary trying to dictate terms to us on what we would like to do ourselves with our own foreign policy.” Prime Minister Gordon Brown has continued to promote his predecessor Tony Blair as a candidate for first long-term EU president, even though the French and German leaders have said they will not back him. And besides, one country holding both positions at once has been ruled out. Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy has been building favour as a consensus facilitator. The EU is expected to call a summit this month to decide on both jobs. According to one inside source, the candidates with the fewer enemies are the ones likeliest to win.