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French Finance Minister Announces Candidacy for Top IMF Job

France's Finance and Economy Minister Christine Lagarde is during the ringing of the opening bell at the Paris Euronext opening day, May 24, 2011

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has announced her candidacy to lead the International Monetary Fund, despite calls from some countries for the job to go to a non-European.

Lagarde is considered a top contender for the post, which was vacated when Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned last week to fight sexual assault charges in New York City.

Lagarde announced her candidacy in a news conference Wednesday.

European Union leaders, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have made it clear that they want another European to head the international lender at a time when it is helping Greece, Ireland and Portugal cope with debt problems.

But major emerging economies are critical of Europe's decades-old grip on the leadership of the IMF. In a joint statement Tuesday, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said it is time to end the "obsolete" custom of reserving the top IMF job for a European.

The directors who speak for the five countries at the IMF said the choice should be based on competence rather than nationality.

The nomination period for the next IMF managing director ends June 10. IMF officials say they hope to have a new leader in place by the end of June.

Monday, Mexico's government nominated its central bank governor Agustin Carstens to head the IMF. He was previously Mexico's finance minister and was the deputy managing director of the IMF for several years.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday that both Lagarde and Carstens are "credible" and "talented" candidates for the job.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.