EU urges European leader for IMF
The European Commission has insisted that the next leader of the International Monetary Fund must come from the European Union, a stance backed by Germany, the continent's economic heavyweight.
Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as IMF chief on Wednesday, saying he wanted to devote "all his energy" to fighting sexual assault charges in New York.
The move heated up cross-border debate over his successor, with Europe aggressively staking its traditional claim to the job to ensure that the continent's debt crisis is given priority.
Fast-growing nations such as China, Brazil and South Africa are trying to break Europe's grip on an organisation empowered to direct billions of dollars to stabilise the global economy.
EU Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said the EU wants continuity at the helm of the IMF and said its members can "identify strong candidates in the midst of the European Union".
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for a quick decision on a successor to Strauss-Kahn and underlined her hopes that a European will get the job, saying: "It is of great significance, of course, that we find a quick solution."
The IMF's executive board released a letter from Strauss-Kahn in which he denied the allegations lodged against him but said with "sadness" he felt he must resign, to protect his family and the IMF.
Strauss-Kahn is facing a bail hearing on Thursday in New York that could have spelled the end of his leadership of the IMF anyway. He faces charges of assaulting a maid in a New York hotel room and has been jailed in New York since Monday.
The IMF's statement late on Wednesday said the process of choosing a new leader would begin, but in the meantime John Lipsky would remain its acting managing director.
Europeans have led the IMF since its inception after the Second World War. Americans have occupied both the No 2 position at the IMF and the top post at its sister institution, the World Bank. The World Bank funds projects in developing countries.