Germany wants European as new IMF head, and soon

19th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday for a new head of the International Monetary Fund to be named quickly following the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, saying it must be a European.

Merkel's spokesman declined to comment meanwhile on a report in business daily Handelsblatt that she wanted Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, to be given the job, saying Berlin had not yet reached a decision.

"Mrs Lagarde is a highly respected figure internationally, with whom Germany has had a good working relationship," a government source said.

It was unclear if this was meant as a hint that Berlin would support her candidacy.

Merkel said that given the IMF's "strong involvement" in the euro crisis, Berlin wanted to see Frenchman Strauss-Kahn, who resigned on Wednesday to fight attempted sexual assault charges in New York, succeeded by another European.

"I am of the opinion that we should propose a European candidate ... I will name no names today but we will discuss it within the European Union," Merkel told reporters.

"I believe it is of great importance also that we find a solution quickly, of course."

She added: "Of course developing nations are within their rights in the medium term to occupy the post of either IMF head of World Bank chief.

"But I think that in the current situation, with serious problems with the euro and the IMF strongly involved, there is a lot in favour of a European candidate being put forward."

The IMF has contributed billions of euros (dollars) to European bailouts of debt-ridden eurozone members Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Merkel said that the fact that Strauss-Kahn's term of office had not yet ended -- it had been due to end in November 2012 -- should also "be taken into account" and put forward as an argument for having another European.

She did not specify if she thought a European should only take over until November 2012.

Merkel's deputy spokesman Christoph Steegmans had said on Wednesday that there was "a whole range of highly qualified candidates" within Europe.

Lagarde and Axel Weber, until recently the chairman of the Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, have been touted as possible front-runners for the job.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, resigned late on Wednesday, four days after being arrested in New York on suspicion of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a 32-year-old chamber maid in his luxury hotel suite.

Strauss-Kahn, a former Socialist finance minister who had been widely expected to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency in elections next year, is currently in custody and has protested his innocence.

Later on Thursday his lawyers planned to go to court to seek bail, backed by the offer of a million-dollar bond and a promise that Strauss-Kahn will remain in a New York apartment.

© 2011 AFP

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