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German Bundesbank head to step down early

Axel Weber

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

The head of Germany's Bundesbank, who was long a favourite to become the European Central Bank's next president, plans to step down a year early for "personal reasons," the government said Friday.

The government announced Axel Weber's decision to quit on April 30 after the Bundesbank president met behind closed doors with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, following days of confusion over his future.

Ms. Merkel and Mr. Schaeuble "took note of this decision with respect for Prof. Weber's personal reasons," Ms. Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a brief statement.

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Neither the government nor the Bundesbank would provide immediate elaboration on those reasons or on Weber's plans. The statement didn't mention the ECB presidency, for which Weber had never been formally proposed, but recent days' events had made his candidacy look increasingly unlikely.

Mr. Weber, 53, unexpectedly indicated earlier this week that he may not seek a new eight-year term at the Bundesbank when his current one expires next year, but otherwise stayed silent on his future ahead of Friday's meeting.

Mr. Weber, who is a member of the ECB's governing council in his capacity as Bundesbank president, has been an advocate of tough steps to prevent inflation but not always a diplomat.

He has voiced unease over the ECB's program, launched last year, to buy bonds of troubled euro zone countries and has called for the program to be stopped.

Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said he greatly regretted Weber's decision to quit.

The Bundesbank president represented and defended "a monetary policy oriented toward price stability and so stabilized the indispensable confidence of business and citizens in inflation-free growth," Mr. Bruederle said.

"He helped shape the course of the ECB in situations that were not always easy," he added. "He deserves respect and thanks for that."

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Mr. Seibert said a new Bundesbank president would be named next week.

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