France's Lagarde seeks IMF's top spot

@CNNMoney May 25, 2011: 1:59 PM ET
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French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde wants to run the International Monetary Fund.

PARIS (CNN) -- French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde announced her bid Wednesday to become head of the International Monetary Fund, after its former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned in the wake of charges he tried to rape a hotel maid in New York.

"I have decided to present my candidacy. I did this after an agreement with President [Nicolas Sarkozy] and Prime Minister [Francois Fillon] of France," Lagarde said, adding that she had "received a number of phone calls from countries supporting my candidacy."

Lagarde, 55, would be the first woman to run the fund since the global financial institution was founded in 1946.

European countries, including Britain, have already announced their support for her, but some developing countries say it is time to break the fund's tradition of having a European hold the top job.

Speaking to CNN after she declared her candidacy, Lagarde said being French would not hobble her candidacy, and that the IMF board will choose the best candidate for the job.

Lagarde emphasized her background as a lawyer, a business leader, and as a wife and mother, an implicit reference to the sex scandal that drove Strauss-Kahn to resign.

She said she would try to improve gender equality at the fund if she became its managing director, as she has done at every place she has worked.

Lagarde told CNN she will not resign as finance minister while campaigning for the IMF job.

A lawyer by training, Lagarde worked for Baker & McKenzie in Chicago before going into politics.

Forbes magazine ranked her among the top 20 most powerful women in the world in 2009.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso "fully endorsed" her candidacy immediately after she announced it, praising her "engagement on the strengthening of global economic governance."

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on Tuesday attacked "the obsolete unwritten convention that requires that the head of the IMF be necessarily from Europe."

How about an emerging markets leader for IMF?

Choosing the managing director on the basis of nationality "undermines the legitimacy of the Fund," said a joint statement from the so-called BRICS nations.

Britain announced its backing for Lagarde over the weekend.

"We support her because she's the best person for the job, but I also personally think it would be a very good thing to see the first female managing director of the IMF in its 60-year history," British Chancellor George Osborne said. Osborne is Britain's equivalent of a finance minister.

The fund said Friday that it aims to complete the selection process by June 30.

Mexico will put forward Central Bank Chief Agustin Carstens as a candidate, the state-run news agency reported Sunday.

Carstens worked with the fund as the executive director for Mexico, Spain, Venezuela and Central America, and was later a deputy managing director there, Notimex said.

Strauss-Kahn, who is accused of trying to rape a maid last week in his suite at the Sofitel hotel in New York, was released from Rikers Island jail on Friday and is staying with his wife, Anne Sinclair.

Strauss-Kahn has been indicted on seven charges, including forcing the maid to perform oral sex on him and attempted rape. If he is convicted, Strauss-Kahn would face up to 25 years in prison.

In his written resignation to the International Monetary Fund last week, Strauss-Kahn said, "I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me." To top of page

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