Top emerging economies joined forces to slam Europe's obsolete grip on the IMF top job, even as France's finance minister appeared to strengthen her lead in the race to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known as the BRICs, sharply criticized European officials on Tuesday for suggesting the next IMF head should automatically be a European.
In the first joint statement issued by their directors at the Fund, the BRICs said the choice should be based on competence, not nationality, and called for abandoning the obsolete unwritten convention that requires that the head of the IMF be necessarily from Europe.
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde plans to announce her candidacy on Wednesday after the European Union agreed to back her, diplomatic sources said.
Hours before the BRIC statement was issued in Washington, France's government said China would back Lagarde to succeed Strauss-Kahn who quit after he was charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York.
Emerging nations say it is time for Europe's 65-year grip on the IMF to be loosened but no clear consensus candidate to represent them has emerged.
Mexico's top central banker said some countries welcomed his decision to run, while South Africa and Kazakhstan may put forward their own candidates.
Following Strauss-Kahn's resignation, Europe has made clear it wants to stay in charge of the multilateral lender at a time when it is helping to bail out Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
It's a European consensus, Francois Baroin, France's budget minister and government spokesman, told Europe 1 radio. ”The euro needs our attention. We need to have the Europeans (on board), the Chinese support the candidacy of Christine Lagarde, he said.
But China's Foreign Ministry said it had no comment on whether Beijing would back Lagarde, a 55-year-old former lawyer, for the job.
Sources in Washington have said the United States would back a European, continuing a tradition that also allows an American to run the World Bank.
The United States and European nations jointly have power at the IMF to decide who leads it but securing support from some emerging economies would defuse a potentially bitter row over the decision.
The IMF's board will draw up a shortlist of three candidates and has a June 30 deadline for picking a successor.
Mexico's Carstens told Reuters the United States welcomed his participation in the race for the IMF job but was neutral on whether to support his candidacy.
They welcomed that I was participating and they thought it was an important part of the process,” Carstens said.