France’s Lagarde to visit Saudi, Egypt on IMF tour

PARIS, June 7 (Reuters) – French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde will visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt this weekend as she tries to shore up emerging market support for her IMF candidacy with a whirlwind global tour.

Lagarde is considered the favourite to replace her compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the helm of the IMF after he was arrested last month on rape charges, but she faces a challenge from Mexican Central Bank chief Agustin Carstens.

After visiting Brazil last week, Lagarde met her Indian counterpart in New Delhi on Tuesday and was due in Beijing on Wednesday as she sought to win over emerging market heavyweights who have criticised Europe’s grip on the Fund’s top job.

“Here are my two new destinations after China: I will be in Riyadh on Saturday and Cairo on Sunday,” Lagarde announced on her Twitter page (!/Lagarde).

Big emerging economies argue the time has come for Europe to relinquish its 65-year hold over the IMF at a time when developing countries are increasing their shareholding and Europe itself has become a major borrower from the Washington-based lender.

Lagarde, who has won plaudits for her handling of France’s G20 presidency this year, argues her candidacy stands on its own merits. She has sought to convince developing countries she would back their demands for more sway at the multilateral lender.

“If I was elected, I’d make sure that the diversity of members is represented at all levels,” she said during a visit to Brazil late last month, after unveiling her candidacy. (Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Ron Askew)