German finance minister backs France's Lagarde to head IMF

21st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble backs his French counterpart Christine Lagarde as the EU candidate to head the International Monetary Fund, a German weekly reported Saturday.

"If Christine Lagarde decided to be a candidate, Europe would have the best chance of occupying this position again," Schaeuble told the Bild am Sonntag in an interview to be published Sunday, the weekly said in a communique.

He said Lagarde, widely touted as the European favourite to replace her compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now fighting sexual assault charges, was "perfectly appropriate" for the job. "She is respected and appreciated throughout the world of finance."

"It is essential now that Europe speak with a single voice on this matter," he added.

Strauss-Kahn resigned on Thursday, five days after being arrested in New York on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. He has protested his innocence.

Under a long-standing arrangement between Europe and the United States, a European has always held the top IMF job while an American leads its sister institution, the World Bank.

But emerging powers China and Brazil are calling for an end to the arrangement to give an opportunity to a candidate from a developing nation.

The EU has staked a claim to retain the IMF leadership to help tackle its debt crisis.

Lagarde, 55, already the first woman finance minister of a Group of Seven country, would become the first woman to head the IMF.

She is dogged by a judicial probe in France into whether she misused her authority as a minister by intervening in a banking scandal involving controversial tycoon Bernard Tapie.

© 2011 AFP

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