Ireland to back France's Lagarde as next IMF chief

AP News
Posted: May 24, 2011 7:37 AM
Ireland to back France's Lagarde as next IMF chief

Ireland, whose economy has been among the worst hit by the global financial crisis, on Tuesday threw its support behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to become the next director of the International Monetary Fund.

The move comes as something of a surprise, given French-Irish tensions over the terms of Ireland's EU-IMF bailout.

Ireland's support adds to the growing European momentum for Lagarde to succeed her countryman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who quit last week after he was accused of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid.

"As finance minister (Lagarde) has responsibilities to hold the government's line in Paris, but she has been very sensitive to our concerns," said Ireland's minister for European affairs, Lucinda Creighton.

"She would be an excellent candidate, she's eminently qualified, and if she's nominated we're likely to support her," Creighton said.

Lagarde herself has yet to say publicly whether she even wants the job.

On Tuesday the head of the Orgnization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, said choosing a woman to lead the Washington-based fund would benefit diversity.

"That certainly is welcome," he said. The IMF has never had a woman managing director.

"Madame Lagarde herself would be the first one to say it is not a question of simply because you are a woman," Gurria told The Associated Press. "But if it's a formidable woman like she is, well of course then you're talking business."

Gurria, a former Mexican finance minister whose name has also been mentioned in connection with the post, played down suggestions he might run if nominated.

"When you're talking about merit, it's difficult to find somebody with more merit (than Lagarde)," he said. "The Europeans have clearly picked up their best and the brightest."

European heavyweights including Germany and Britain have already voiced support for Lagarde, making her the frontrunner for the job.

Some developing countries have called for the IMF's top post to go to someone outside Europe, which has picked the head of the fund since its creation after World War II.


Pogatchnik reported from Dublin.