IMF chief not necessarily European position: OECD chief

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The chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not necessarily a position to be held by a European, the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Friday in Paris.

In choosing an executive director for the IMF, "the issue of merit is more important than nationality," Angel Gurria stated.

Gurria made the remarks in response to questions about who will be the successor to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the scandal-hit French celebrity who just resigned as the IMF chief.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of sexual assault and attempted rape on a hotel maid in the United States.

"I totally agree it is time to change what is a tradition," said Gurria, the former Mexican minister of finance.

The IMF's leadership has traditionally been entrusted to a European citizen, while the World Bank is usually under the charge of an American.

France wants the IMF chief's position to remain in the possession of Europe. "The European Union, whose member states are together the largest shareholder of the Fund, is able to present a candidate of very high quality," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday, urging Europe to "make the united choice." German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed similar views.

However, the OECD chief pointed out that this is not a normal succession process, so the choosing of a candidate must be "quick" to "avoid uncertainty."

The No. 2 leader of the IMF, American John Lipsky who became the Fund's interim leader after the arrest of Strauss-Kahn, had announced his departure in August, Gurria noted.

"If we change the tradition" and pick a successor from emerging economies, then a European can have the No. 2 position, said the OECD chief, describing such an arrangement as "a package" of change in the international financial institution.

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