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France's finance minister, Christine Lagarde, has all but sealed her claim to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Already the hot favourite for the position, she has formally launched her campaign with the backing of French President Nicolas Sakozy.
France has held the senior IMF post for 26 of the past 33 years, bringing calls by some nations that it is time for the baton to be picked up by a non-European.
But Ms Lagarde, 55, who is US educated and a fluent English speaker, is backed by the EU and is likely to have US support. They pull all the strings at the IMF and its affiliate, the World Bank.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, a French socialist, resigned late last week after being charged with the attempted rape of a housekeeper in a New York hotel.
By contrast with Mr Strauss Kahn, Ms Lagarde supports right-wing economics, though she is trained as a lawyer. She is seeking a full five-year mandate and not just an approval to fill out the rest of Mr Strauss-Kahn's term.
Her only declared competitor is Mexico's central bank chief, Agustin Carstens, whose candidacy was announced by Mexican Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero.
While the EU’s 35% voting block is already behind Ms Lagarde, the US, with nearly 17%, is holding back on its choice for fear of being accused of making a backroom deal.
China, too, has yet to declare any preference while the votes of India and Brazil will also be critical.
Ms Largarde says being a European should be neither a plus nor a minus in her candidacy. She says the IMF has "changed for the better" under Mr Strauss-Kahn's leadership but it still needs to be tougher and more effective.
"More broadly, I firmly believe that the representation of the fund should continue to adapt to changing economic realities, as should quotas," she says, referring to calls for the IMF to reflect changing global economic realities.
The IMF is expected to name three contenders for the top job upon polling its members after the nominations period closes on June 10. A winner is scheduled to be named by June 30.
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