11/10/2011 01:08 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

ECB's Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to resign, could open way to resolve French-Italian dispute

FRANKFURT - A top official at the European Central Bank is resigning, opening the way to resolve a dispute between France and Italy over top jobs at the eurozone's chief monetary authority.

A statement by the ECB said Thursday that Lorenzo Bini Smaghi will leave his post on the bank's six-member executive board for a job at Harvard University in the United States.

France wants to appoint someone to the board after the retirement of bank president Jean-Claude Trichet. It is customary for the largest euro countries to have someone on the council.

When Bank of Italy head Mario Draghi replaced Trichet, that gave Italy two seats on the board and France none.

Along with the new head of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, Italy had three representatives on the 23 member rate-setting council, which includes the executive board.

The ECB said that Draghi "warmly thanks Mr. Bini Smaghi for his contributions in the field of European and international monetary and economic affairs over many years."

Bini Smaghi, 54, will leave 17 months before the end of his single 8-year term and take a post at Harvard's Center for International Affairs on Jan 1. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and formerly served in Italy's ministry of the economy and finance.