WASHINGTON – The United States balked Thursday at immediately backing a European to lead the International Monetary Fund, saying only that it wanted an open and prompt succession.
The resignation of Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn has set off a scramble to find a new leader for the powerful organization, which directs billions of dollars to troubled nations to stabilize the global economy.
Europe staked its traditional claim to the post and many officials are lining up behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. But China, Brazil and other developing nations are trying to open up the selection process at the institution that represents 187 member countries.
The United States, which has the largest share of votes for a single country, declined to publicly weigh in.
“We haven’t taken a position on any candidate,” said Lael Brainard, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. “What is important at this juncture is that we move quickly to an open process.”
Brainard’s comments and a similarly ambiguous statement issued by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner leave open the possibility that the U.S. could support a candidate from either group.
Together, the U.S. and Europe control more than 50 percent of the votes on the IMF’s board. A simple majority is all that is required to select the group’s leader. Under a gentleman’s agreement dating back to World War II, a European has run the IMF and an American has led the World Bank, its sister organization.