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Fed chairman bows out of G-7 with a flourish

Fed chairman bows out of G-7 with a flourish

He signed autographs, mingled and cracked a joke with reporters - all things that Alan Greenspan would never be predicted to do at a Group of Seven meeting, except this was his final one as a key participant.

The 79-year-old Federal Reserve chairman, who bows out next month after more than 18 years at the helm of the U.S. central bank, was treated with mixture of awe and reverence as the two-day G7 gathering of finance ministers and central bankers concluded on Saturday.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who chaired the meeting of finance leaders from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, said Greenspan "has served not only America but the whole world."

Brown revealed something new about the honor that Greenspan received a day earlier when he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London with its ancient and arcane right to herd sheep across London bridge.

"As you know, yesterday he also became a freeman of the City of London and he has signed an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen to do so - something as you know Americans have been reluctant to do for the last 250 years," Brown told a closing news conference.

Brown said he convinced Greenspan to do so by telling him that former U.S. Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt also had taken similar oaths.

Earlier in the day, Greenspan stopped before a knot of reporters as he left a breakfast meeting and spent about 10 minutes autographing notebooks and whatever was placed in front of him.

"I'll have to shorten my name in a second life," he grumbled good-naturedly as he scrawled his name with a black felt pen.

Greenspan has attended dozens of G7 gatherings - 55 by Brown's count on Friday - and the London meeting was in part a tribute to his long tenure during which he became the world's most influential central banker.

"The talks were very constructive and with some emotion because it was the last time that we will see Mr. Greenspan in his current capacity," said French Finance Minister Thierry Breton.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow similarly noted the feeling that had been expressed toward Greenspan while also commenting on the Fed's continuing strength as an institution. Greenspan is set to be replaced by former Fed Governor Ben Bernanke, who awaits only an affirmative vote by the full U.S. Senate.

"There was just an outpouring of admiration and respect for him," Snow said. "He's been an integral part of the G7 discussions for some 18 years now and there is not only deep respect but genuine affection because he brings to the G7 a commitment to think things through deeply, he brings a powerful and ordered intellect to bear on questions of the global economy."

Updated : 2021-07-27 00:47 GMT+08:00