Germany bitter at US over rejection of IMF candidate

 

The US rejection of the German and EU candidate for the managing directorship of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been attacked by the co-ordinator of German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry, Mr Karsten Voigt, as an "unfriendly act".

The US move is being seen by the Germans as breaking the spirit of a tacit long-term understanding which has allowed the top IMF job to go to a European while the US has retained the corresponding post in the World Bank.

Now, with three candidates in the ring to replace France's Mr Michel Camdessus for the IMF job, including a US citizen, there are concerns that the Clinton administration may be readying up a takeover bid.

Mr Voigt told Hesse region radio: "The behaviour of the US - after Mr Caio Koch-Weser became the common candidate of the Europeans - is an unfriendly act, not only against Germany but against Europe as a whole."

Not so, say US sources who point out that Mr Clinton has yet to back the US citizen, Mr Stanley Fischer, the IMF deputy managing director, who has been holding the fort since Mr Camdessus's departure and who has been nominated by the Angolans.

EU diplomats say the US move is an attempt to force the EU to pick a heavyweight candidate for the evolving high-profile role of the IMF as the world's key financial firefighter, and may well be playing to exacerbate EU divisions. Both the French and the British had been late and somewhat reluctant supporters of Mr Kock-Weser. Ireland was among his first.

The French Finance Minister Mr Christian Sautter said yesterday that the IMF should now conduct a straw poll among the three contenders - the third is a Japanese nominee, Mr Eisuke Sakakibara.

In Britain, yesterday, government officials reaffirmed support for Mr Koch-Weser's nomination. "Mr Koch-Weser is a strong and experienced candidate and we are prepared to support him."

But Paris and London might not be that unhappy if, as appears likely, none of the candidates achieves a majority. In those circumstances, the EU might be forced to think again.