European impasse over new head of IMF could open door for other candidates

The prospects are increasing that new candidates to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be put forward in a bid to break a deadlock on the issue in Europe, monetary sources say. Two attempts at IMF headquarters in Washington have failed to end the impasse. European support is still split between Dutch Finance Minister Onno Ruding and French Central Bank governor Michel Camdessus, the sources said.

The search to replace managing director Jacques de Larosiere, who steps down at the end of the year, has been underway for two months. A fairly substantial list of potential European candidates has boiled down to the two front runners. But a unanimous European decision, seen as diplomatically mandatory ever since the Fund was founded after World War II, still seems out of reach.

Other major nations at the IMF talks, such as the United States and Japan, have stayed out of the fray in order to avoid the diplomatic pitfalls of pleasing some Europeans and angering others.

``As far as we're concerned, the least risky course is to remain neutral,'' said a non-European monetary official.

Western European nations traditionally select the head of the IMF while the US appoints the World Bank president and Japan names the Asian Development Bank chief. Quiet support is now said to be building for either a British or a Japanese candidate to fill the IMF post.

The IMF meetings held during the past two weeks were attended by the agency's executive directors, representing both industrial and developing states. Even though these talks were informal, there were in fact serious attempts to reach a decision, the sources said. European finance ministers are set to tackle the issue once again at a meeting in Brussels on Nov. 17.

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