ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi repeated on Friday that he expected European Central Bank executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to step down and make way for a French candidate.
Bini Smaghi's refusal to leave his post following the appointment of fellow Italian Mario Draghi as head of the central bank has created a serious problem with France, which will have no national representatives on the board when Draghi takes over from outgoing President Jean-Claude Trichet on Tuesday.
ECB rules designed to protect the central bank's independence say that board members are not appointed on the basis of their nationality and they can only resign of their own choice.
"The problem is the fact that someone can think they can behave in a way that is contrary to the interests of their own country, which is causing an unpleasant argument with a friendly country," Berlusconi told a program on his own Canale 5 television station.
"We have always stuck to our commitments with Europe and our allies and when Governor Draghi was named as President of the European Central Bank with the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, we made a commitment that a French presence on the executive board would be ensured as is logical," he said.
"I trust in the sense of duty and responsibility which Dr Bini Smaghi certainly has," he said.
Bini Smaghi also held a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday, a statement from the president's office said.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Catherine Evans; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)