Osborne’s backing for French IMF candidate

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Britain has thrown its weight behind French finance minister Christine Lagarde to be the new head of the International Monetary Fund.

Chancellor George Osborne described Ms Lagarde as the “outstanding candidate” to take over the helm of the world financial body.

His endorsement will seal her status as the overwhelming favourite in the race to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn who quit to fight charges of attempted rape in New York.

It follows similar backing from German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who said she was “outstandingly qualified” for the post.

In a statement, Mr Osborne said: “On the basis of merit, I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF – and that’s why Britain will back her.

“She’s shown real international leadership as chair of the G20 finance ministers this year. She has also been a strong advocate for countries tackling high budget deficits and living within their means.

“We support her because she’s the best person for the job, but I also personally think it would be a very good thing to see the first female managing director of the IMF in its 60-year history.”

There is speculation that her appointment could be confirmed as early as next week at the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville.

The move has, however, angered some in the developing world who want to break with tradition and see a non-European installed in the post – reflecting the growing importance of the emerging economies.

Mr Osborne’s comments would also appear to represent the final nail in the coffin for Gordon Brown’s hopes of gaining the job. David Cameron had previously made clear that he did not think the post should go to the former prime minister.

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