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IMF better off with non-European at helm: Carstens

Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens said Tuesday he was better qualified than his rival Christine Lagarde to lead the IMF, saying the body could benefit by having a non-European at the helm.

Along with French Finance Minister Lagarde, Carstens is seen as one of two front runners for the director-general’s post vacated by Dominique Strauss-Kahn after he was arrested and charged with attempted rape in New York.

Traditionally the post of IMF chief has gone to a European while the United States tends to pick the head of the World Bank.

But in interviews with Spain’s El Pais daily and Expansion economic journal, Carstens said the current woes of the euro illustrated that “Europe doesn’t need a European at the IMF but solutions”.

“I dare say that it might be more appropriate to have a non-European because a new set of eyes can look at Europe’s problems more objectively, especially if it’s someone of experience, who comes up with a plan of action which might be a bit tougher but also more realistic,” said Carstens.

“The reality is that this crisis has been going on for three years now with a European at the head of the IMF and that crisis has still not been resolved,” he added.

The 52-year-old Carstens, who served as deputy managing director of the IMF from 2003-2006 before taking over as Mexican finance minister, recognised that he faced a major challenge to beat Lagarde, widely regarded as the favourite.

“It’s a difficult process,” said Carstens, “not only because there is another high-calibre candidate but also because it would break with 65 years of tradition (under which a European has led the IMF) at a very complex time for Europe and also bearing in mind that Europe is united in wanting to keep hold of this position.”

“But I’m not admitting defeat,” he said. “I have more authority and experience than Lagarde to lead the IMF.”

Asked what he would do if he were to fail to secure the top job at the IMF, Carstens ruled out taking up the number two position within the organisation.

“If that were to be the case then I would prefer to remain in my country and help it,” he said.