Mandelson named Britain's EU commissioner


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed the former Northern secretary Mr Peter Mandelson as Britain's new European Commissioner.

Mr Blair telephoned new Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso earlier on Friday and received a "positive response".

London is expected to press Brussels to give Mr Mandelson the job of running the EU's single market directorate, covering issues from tax harmonisation to opening up financial services.

He is also sure to be a key figure in a referendum Mr Blair has promised, probably in 2006, on the EU constitution.

This is a remarkable comeback for a politician who helped mastermind the Labour Party's 1997 election win but was later twice forced out of ministerial posts amid scandals.

Long a supporter of British membership of the euro, Mr Mandelson's appointment will please Europe but may bring a domestic backlash due to his controversial career, analysts said. 

The first time he resigned, in December 1998, came after he failed to declare a 373,000 pound loan from a fellow government minister, which he used to buy a London house.

In 2001 he was forced out as Northern Ireland secretary over claims he backed passport applications of two Indian billionaire brothers after they agreed to fund London's ill-fated Millennium Dome.