Stay at IMF, French minister tells Strauss-Kahn

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France's economy minister Tuesday urged IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to stay at the global lender, as various right-wingers sought to impede his potential bid for the presidency next year.

Polls show Strauss-Kahn as the opposition candidate most likely to win a presidential race against President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity rating is consistently low at about a third.

Strauss-Kahn has not yet announced whether he will run for his party's nomination but media speculation has surged in recent days that he will.

"He was named as director general of the IMF. Everyone agrees, me included, that he is doing a very good job there," Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Tuesday on France 2 television on Tuesday.

"He is supporting France's aims for the G20, so we need him to stay where he is," she added, referring to Sarkozy's year at the helm of the economic grouping, which he hopes will boost his popularity at home.

She declined to comment on recent moves by various allies of Sarkozy -- who backed Strauss-Kahn to head the IMF in the first place -- to cast doubt on his suitability for the job.

The leader of the ruling UMP party in parliament Christian Jacob had dismissed Strauss-Kahn as a cosmopolitan type who is not "the image of... the France we love."

Another member of Sarkozy's government, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, joined in on Tuesday, judging that Strauss-Kahn's years in Washington at the International Monetary Fund have put him out of touch with France.

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is currently far from France, is not necessarily the best placed to know the problems of the French people at first hand," Hortefeux said on LCI television.

"The right is starting to plant mines," said political analyst Stephane Rozes on Monday. "This is a warning to DSK to let him know that the battle will be bitter."

© 2011 AFP

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