WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner believes French finance minister Christine Lagarde is an "exceptionally talented" candidate to lead the International Monetary Fund, the Treasury said on Thursday in a statement that stopped short of an endorsement.
Geithner "believes that Minister Lagarde's strong leadership skills and experience makes her an exceptionally talented candidate for IMF managing director," a Treasury spokeswoman said after the two finance ministers met.
She said Geithner and Lagarde had discussed the situation in Europe, where Greece is under pressure to impose fresh austerity measures in return for a further disbursement of funds from an IMF/European Union support package.
Lagarde is due to meet the IMF' 24-member board on Thursday to make her case for the top job. She is competing with Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as IMF chief after being charged with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid.
The U.S. Treasury is unlikely to endorse a specific candidate until the IMF board moves forward on the matter next week, but Geithner has publicly said Lagarde and Carstens are two "credible" candidates for the job.
Geithner met with Carstens last week. After the meeting he said the central banker had a strong mix of financial talent and political skills and that made him an "exceptionally capable candidate" to head the IMF.
(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Lesley Wroughton, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)