Russia hints it could back Lagarde to head IMF
A top Russian diplomat hinted Wednesday that Moscow could follow China's lead among major emerging economies by supporting France's Christine Lagarde to head the IMF at a G8 summit this week.
The diplomat said in Brussels the "only feeble point for Lagarde" is a judicial probe in France over intervention during a banking affair, but that "it is important to recall the principle of the presumption of innocence."
"The emphasis should be made on the professional qualifications of the candidates," said Aleksandr Krestiyanov, charge d'affaires at the Russian EU embassy.
The succession has been brought forward after Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned to fight charges of attempted rape in a New York court.
But Russia's position was unclear, especially after IMF directors from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- the so-called BRICS economies -- said Tuesday that Europe's longstanding exclusive deal to lead the IMF "undermines the legitimacy of the Fund."
The G20, which leads global coordination on economic affairs, had previously discussed the change of approach when originally planning for the scheduled end of Strauss-Kahn's mandate next year.
However, Krestiyanov implied that Russia and China -- which France says it can count on -- are on a similar wavelength going into the G8 meeting Thursday and Friday in Deauville, France, where leaders are expected to reach an unofficial understanding.
"According to my knowledge, China first reiterated the principle agreed in G20 talks but recently China said it may support Christine Lagarde," Krestiyanov said.
"So Russia's position remains simple -- we will support a good professional whether they come from Europe or countries elsewhere."
He mentioned the expected candidacy of Agustin Carstens, the respected Mexican central bank governor who has extensive experience at the IMF, but said: "I will refrain from giving the (comparative) characteristics of each."
Lagarde, 55, a former champion swimmer who would be the first woman to head the IMF, launched her bid Wednesday after winning broad European backing.
She cited "mature reflection" with the backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and said she had "a perfectly clear conscience" about the possible investigation. Magistrates will decide whether to take up a prosecutor's demand on June 10.
© 2011 AFP