WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday declined to confirm his exit from the position when his term ends in January, amid continued political bickering over his replacement.
Four days after Larry Summers, the widely presumed White House pick to be the next Fed chief, withdrew his name in the face of strong political opposition, Mr Bernanke sidestepped questions about the issue.
Asked at a press conference whether he might in fact stay on for a third term, he replied: "I prefer not to talk about my plans at this point." "I hope to have more information for you at some reasonably soon date, but today I want to focus on monetary policy. I'd prefer not to talk about my own plans."
Mr Bernanke's replacement has boiled into a political fight, with Mr Summers, who was widely believed to be President Barack Obama's pick for the position, bowing out on Sunday after meeting strong objections not only from Republicans but members of Mr Obama's own Democratic Party.
A former Treasury secretary and Mr Obama's top economic adviser during the financial crisis, few objected to Mr Summers's qualifications.
But liberals assailed his close ties to Wall Street and his central role in the 1999 banking deregulation that led directly to the crisis.
And Republicans opposed him for his role devising the administration's approach to rescuing the economy in 2009.
With the issue still likely to be deeply politicized, the White House has yet to reveal its nominee, who must be approved by the Senate.
Most analysts say Mr Obama could pick Fed vice-chair Janet Yellen, who has strong backing from Democrats but will likely meet more resistance from Republicans.
Even so, Mr Bernanke has yet to officially confirm he is leaving when his term ends on Jan 31.
Asked Wednesday if he thought the issue had become too politicised, Mr Bernanke said he was not worried.
"I think the Federal Reserve has strong institutional credibility," he told reporters.
"It's independent, it's nonpartisan, and I am not particularly concerned about the political environment for the Federal Reserve.
"I think the Fed will continue to be an important institution in the United States and that it will maintain its independence going forward."