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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Ministers Decide on Candidates for IMF Post

DUBLIN -- Over two days of talks at a racetrack outside Dublin, European finance ministers narrowed their field of candidates to run the International Monetary Fund, and settled on two names: Rodrigo Rato of Spain and Jean Lemierre of France.

The Irish finance minister, Charlie McCreevy, presided at the talks because Ireland holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. He said he hoped that a consensus would emerge over the next two weeks, as his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, consults with other IMF nations.

The European choice is likely to be named at the annual meeting of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development on April 18 in London, McCreevy said. The final decision is to be made near the end of the month in Washington.

The IMF's executive board is officially responsible for choosing a new managing director, but the European ministers' choice is a clear indicator of who will get the job; it is customarily held by a European, while an American usually heads the World Bank.

Rato, the departing Spanish finance minister, was the early front-runner after Horst K?hler announced his resignation from the IMF post on March 4 to run for the German presidency, a race he is expected to win. Rato enjoys support from smaller European countries and from Latin America, though he suffered a setback when his political group, the Popular Party, was ousted in the Spanish national elections last month.

When France and Germany proposed Lemierre, the president of the EBRD, the move was interpreted by Rato's backers as an attempt to undermine Rato's candidacy. Lemierre is benefiting from an informal agreement under which France will back a German for a new European commissioner's post with oversight of economic, industrial and trade policy.

That deal has prompted criticism from other countries in the IMF about a lack of transparency in its operations. A strong consensus candidate is also needed to avoid repeating the situation in 2000, when the United States vetoed the initial European proposal.

Applauding the current choices, Hans Eichel, the German finance minister, said, "We have two candidates with different profiles -- one a financial expert, the other the experienced politician: Lemierre and Rato."

Before this weekend's action, several other names, including those of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and the EU's competition commissioner, Mario Monti, had been raised.

That situation led McCreevy to play down expectations that the ministers would be able to agree on a candidate. That they have come closer to selecting one provides further credit to Ireland's presidency of the EU, which ends in June. The term so far has been characterized by surprising cooperation.