Lagarde's IMF bid bolstered after Israeli statement

12th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde's bid for the top job at the International Monetary Fund received a welcome boost Sunday after fresh backing and Israel's admission that its candidate had little chance of winning the race.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia became the latest nations to support Lagarde after central and southern African states tipped her for the post earlier this week.

"Personally I support France," Indonesia's Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo told reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia event in Jakarta.

"She's a pro, very skillful in interacting between organisations, has high integrity and expertise," he said.

His comments followed Lagarde's whistle-stop tour of Asia, in which she touted her credentials for the job but was given a lukewarm response in Beijing and New Delhi.

Emerging nations have baulked at Europe's 65-year grip on the top job at the Washington-based institution, calling the arrangement outdated.

But Lagarde on Sunday said she was "confident" of her chances of heading the IMF after receiving a thumbs-up from Egypt.

"I am very confident, particularly after several meetings here in Egypt," Lagarde told reporters after talks with her Egyptian counterpart Samir Radwan. "We have had excellent meetings."

Egypt is on the 24-member executive board which is due to reach a consensus on naming a new IMF chief at the end of this month.

The oil-rich UAE hailed her central role at G20 meetings under the rotating presidency of France and for "tackling important issues, including those related to economic development, alleviating unemployment and high prices".

Lagarde said that under her leadership, the IMF would be dedicated to economic development in north Africa and the Middle East, where pro-democracy protests have swept the region.

The IMF's top post opened unexpectedly after Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned on May 18 to fight sexual assault charges in New York.

Europe has come out in force for Lagarde while the United States and Japan, the IMF's other power brokers, remain publicly uncommitted.

Lagarde's bid was strengthened after Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz acknowledged Sunday that central bank governor Stanley Fischer's chance of becoming the next IMF chief were "not great".

Fischer, who threw his hat in the ring Saturday for the top job, was considered a dark-horse candidate, challenging frontrunners Lagarde and Mexico's Agustin Carstens.

Steinitz said age and "the political nature" in which the candidate was chosen hindered Fischer's bid.

"The main problem is that choice is political. If it was professional it's difficult to think of a more deserving candidate than Stanley Fischer," he told Army Radio.

He also pointed to Fischer's age -- 67, which is two years older than what is requested for the position.

© 2011 AFP

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