EU partners try to slow Sarkozy push for IMF nominee

By Paul Taylor
Monday, July 9, 2007; 7:00 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - France's European partners sought on Monday to put the brakes on its drive to nominate former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn as next head of the International Monetary Fund.

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that he wanted the respected, multilingual former Socialist finance chief to be the European candidate to succeed Spain's Rodrigo Rato, who is stepping down in October.

Sarkozy said he had already put forward Strauss-Kahn's name to U.S. President George W. Bush and the leaders of Spain, Italy and Britain in what some diplomats saw as a bid to seize the initiative before rival European contenders emerged.

The position traditionally goes to a European, although this time around developing nations are challenging the carve-up where Europeans head the IMF with U.S. support and an American leads the World Bank with Europe's blessing.

A source in the Portuguese European Union presidency said EU finance ministers would discuss the IMF succession over lunch on Tuesday but were unlikely to pick a candidate.

"I expect to have a broad exchange of views between the ministers on the head of the IMF. There have been a number of informal contacts and I expect these to continue," the Portuguese presidency source said.

"I do not expect to have a name coming out from the meeting tomorrow but we will see," he said.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck's spokesman Torsten Albig said on Saturday the minister was informed in advance and Germany held Strauss-Kahn in high regard as a "good European candidate." But he added the cabinet would discuss the proposal before Berlin gave a formal endorsement.


Steinbrueck's deputy, Thomas Mirow, said on Monday that while Strauss-Kahn's competence was not in doubt, there were other candidates.

"The credentials of Strauss-Kahn cannot be disputed. As regards the political process, we have just started," Mirow told reporters at an insurance industry seminar in Berlin.

He said he was aware of a Dutch candidate, whom he did not identify. Diplomats said former Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm was a potential runner.

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