Europe rallies behind Lagarde for IMF job at G8
European leaders Thursday vaunted their choice for the leadership of the IMF, France's Christine Lagarde, as she gained personal approval from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The succession at the top of the global emergency lender, following the shock arrest of its ex-head Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sex assault charges, weighed heavily on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Deauville, northwestern France.
"If certain people want to talk about it, we will underline all her qualities," said Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Union.
"We are not here to lobby for her," he said. "Her candidacy speaks for itself. Madame Lagarde is a candidate of great experience with character for leadership."
Five top emerging powers -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- have complained that the job should not automatically go to a European, as IMF tradition dictates.
They say it is time they got a say at the top of one of the global economy's most important institutions.
Their opposition and the embarrassment that Strauss-Kahn's arrest have not deterred European powers from endorsing another French candidate to head the global lender, nor have judicial proceedings hanging over Lagarde.
Judges will decide on June 10 whether to accept a prosecutor's demand that they investigate allegations that Lagarde exceeded her authority in her handling of a high-profile dispute which resulted in a big compensation payout to tycoon Bernard Tapie.
Lagarde, a former lawyer, said Wednesday she has a "clear conscience" about the affair.
The G8 host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, told reporters in Deauville: "The risks are easily overcome in our view, as will be seen from various legal analyses that Madame Lagarde will communicate."
He said her candidacy had been discussed in G8 bilateral meetings.
In Paris meanwhile, Clinton said she "personally" welcomes Lagarde's candidacy for leadership of the International Monetary Fund.
"The United States has not taken an official position. Obviously other candidates may come forth," Clinton said in an interview broadcast on French television channel TF1.
"But speaking unofficially and personally, I am a strong supporter of qualified women, which she is certainly one, being given the opportunity to lead international organisations," she added.
Strauss-Kahn -- also French -- resigned last week after being charged with sex crimes in New York where he is currently on bail.
A source close to Lagarde said Thursday she is planning to travel on a charm offensive to convince emerging economic powers such as China and Brazil. Details of her possible trip had yet to be agreed, the source added.
As the biggest IMF shareholder, the US could cement Lagarde in the powerful global finance post if it joins forces with the seven European IMF directors on the IMF board. It has so far been tightlipped about its pick.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday called Lagarde and Agustin Carstens, the governor of Mexico's central bank, "very credible" candidates to lead the International Monetary Fund, without endorsing either.
Clinton said she had hosted Lagarde at a dinner on Wednesday evening and spoke to her about her candidacy.
"I actually know her. I admire her," Clinton said. "I wished her well last night and I will be watching closely as this unfolds."
© 2011 AFP