French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has announced she will seek the top job at the International Monetary Fund.
Many European countries, including Germany and Britain, have offered their backing to a candidacy by her to run the IMF, which provides billions in loans to shore up the world economy.
Ms Lagarde had been silent about her intentions until today, when she announced at a press conference that she wants the job.
The IMF’s last managing director, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quit last week after he was accused of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid.
``If I'm elected I'll bring all my expertise as a lawyer, a minister, a manager and a woman'' to the job, she said.
She indicated she would not focus exclusively on Europe. “No zone has been spared by the financial crisis,” she said. “I want to get the biggest possible consensus for my candidacy.”
The IMF has traditionally been run by a European, while the World Bank has been run by an American. But representatives of major developing nations on the IMF’s board issued a joint statement urging the lending agency to abandon that practice.
Ms Lagarde emerged as the European front-runner in part on her reputation for her deftness at international negotiations to stabilise the world economy during the world financial crisis.
She also was seen as instrumental in getting the IMF and European Union to agree on rescue plans for Greece, Ireland and Portugal when their debt crises threatened the entire shared euro currency.
The 55-year-old spent much of her career in the United States, where she headed a Chicago law firm. With excellent English, a direct manner and relatively pristine image, she is seen as a good candidate to quickly step into Strauss-Kahn’s shoes and manage Europe’s continuing debt difficulties.
But potential legal troubles at home have clouded her candidacy, and some French critics say she would be a bad choice.
Questions have surfaced about her role in getting arbitration in 2008 for French businessman Bernard Tapie, who won compensation for the mishandling of sale of sportswear maker Adidas. Ms Lagarde was finance minister at the time of the decision.
The decision on the next IMF leader is expected by the end of June. It will be made by the agency’s 24-member executive board, whose officials represent the 187 IMF member countries.
Her candidacy was supported by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"I fully endorse the candidacy of Mrs Christine Lagarde for the post of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund," Mr Barroso said in a statement.
"Mrs Lagarde is well respected in the international iommunity," he said.
"The European Commission, which is working extremely closely with the International Monetary Fund, believes that the qualities of Mrs Lagarde, as well as her engagement on the strengthening of global economic governance is indispensible to accomplish the mission of the IMF and its vital contribution to the stability of the international economy."