A moved Jean-Claude Trichet neared the end of 24 years of policymaking on Saturday after attending his last informal meeting of European finance ministers as head of the European Central Bank.

The Frenchman will turn over the reins of the ECB to Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi at the end of October as the 17-nation euro zone struggles to contain a flaring debt crisis that some economists say threatens its very existence.

I'm a quite moved, a visibly emotional Trichet told several journalists after the two-day informal meeting of the 'EcoFin' in the Polish city of Wroclaw.

I just did the tally and I've attended these informal meetings for 24 consecutive years as director of the (French) treasury, then as governor of the Bank of France and then ECB president, Trichet said. A lot has happened during this time.

Asked if he might put in an appearance at future meetings of EU finance chiefs, he insisted he would not and added: They are going to do the work.

The Frenchman staunchly defended the ECB's mandate of keeping inflation under control and played a key role in crafting Europe's response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

But he has also taken hits for the ECB's attempts to calm tensions on debt markets by buying bonds of euro zone states with the weakest public finances.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)