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France's Strauss-Kahn Chosen to Head IMF

Former French Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn was tapped Friday to become the next head of the International Monetary Fund. From Paris, Lisa Bryant has more on the leftist politician who has vowed to build consensus as the IMF's new director.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 58, brings plenty of experience to Washington, when he takes up his new post as IMF chief. He is a trained lawyer and former economics professor who served as French finance minister in the 1990s. He is also a leading figure in the French Socialist Party, who bid unsuccessfully for the French presidency earlier this year.

Ali Fatemi, dean of the business school at the American University of Paris, believes Strauss-Kahn is just the right man to make much-needed reforms at the IMF.

"It takes a man of his imagination, his background and his political base to bring about something like this," Fatemi said. "This can be the most important contribution he can make within the next five years that he serves at the IMF - to restructure the IMF and make it a real international central bank."

Strauss-Kahn was virtually a shoe-in to take over the post from current IMF director Rodrigo Rato, who steps down next month. Leadership of the IMF traditionally goes to a European, while that of another key international financial institution, the World Bank, goes to an American. Strauss-Kahn's candidacy was backed both by the European Union and by the Bush administration.

But not everybody supports him. Britain's Financial Times newspaper called Strauss-Kahn the wrong candidate chosen in the wrong way. It argued the bidding process should be widened to include non-European candidates. Strauss-Kahn himself has made a similar proposal.

During an interview before the IMF's executive board last week, the French politician said he would be a consensus builder, if he was selected for the job.

French political analyst Etienne Schweisguth also believes Strauss-Kahn will not force through changes.

Strauss-Kahn will not be a brutal reformer, Schweisguth said. Rather, he'll rely on discussion and collaboration.

Strauss-Kahn is among several leading leftist politicians picked for key political posts by France's center-right president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Another top leftist politician, Bernard Kouchner, is the country's foreign minister.