French front-runner for IMF top job wins Dutch backing

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Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager on Monday offered his support for his French counterpart Christine Lagarde to take over the helm of the International Monetary Fund.

"It is extremely important for Europe to have a single candidate, and it would be very good if it were Christine Lagarde," De Jager said on public radio in answer to a question. "She would have my total support."

The IMF is scrambling to designate a successor to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned last week to face sexual assault charges, by the end of June.

The EU is expected to announce its candidate at the Group of Eight summit in Deauville, France, later this week.

An EU source said Friday that Lagarde, 55, was "practically a shoo-in" to become Europe's candidtate, although she has been dogged by a French judicial probe into allegations of abuse of power.

Lagarde is widely respected in global financial circles and well-liked by the United States -- which controls 16.8 percent of the voting power on the IMF executive board.

Under a long-standing arrangement between Europe and the United States, a European has always held the top IMF job while an American leads its sister institution, the World Bank.

However emerging nations have called for a chance to get the post.

Lagarde, already the first woman finance minister of a Group of Seven country, would become the first woman to head the IMF.

© 2011 AFP

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