Socialist chief queries French choice for IMF job
PARIS, July 8 (Reuters) The head of France's Socialist party questioned today President Nicolas Sarkozy's motives for putting forward a senior leftist politician to become the next head of the International Monetary Fund.
Sarkozy said at the weekend that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist former finance minister, would be France's candidate for the top IMF job, which comes vacant in October.
It was the latest in a long line of moves by the right-wing Sarkozy to reach out to his leftist opponents -- a tactic that has wrong footed a Socialist party still reeling from its twin presidential and parliamentary elections defeats this year.
Socialist leader Francois Hollande suggested today that Sarkozy might be promoting Strauss-Kahn for political reasons rather than for the good of the international community.
Instead of doing something that was ''useful for Europe'', Holland told Radio J: ''one senses with this or that comment (the desire) to score domestic political points.'' He added: ''If Europe and France is given the chance to lead the International Monetary Fund, this should not be used for domestic political ends.'' Sarkozy has dismissed suggestions that he nominated Strauss-Kahn in order to remove a potential rival from the domestic political scene, saying he wants to promote the best talents available in France regardless of political affiliation.
In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Sarkozy said he had already put forward Strauss-Kahn's name to US President George W. Bush and the leaders of Spain, Italy and Britain.
He warmly praised the Socialist moderate, who is one of the most popular figures on the left, saying he had the experience, credibility and language skills needed to lead the IMF.
Hollande said it would be up to France's European partners to decide whether Strauss-Kahn had the necessary skills.
Strauss-Kahn himself has made no comment.
The left portrayed Sarkozy as an authoritarian hardliner during the election campaign, but since winning power, he has surprised both friend and foe alike by handing Socialists key positions, such as nominating Bernard Kouchner foreign minister.
His openness has created deep divisions within Socialist ranks, blurred political lines and boosted his own standing as a receptive and open president.
Hollande, who is due to step down as Socialist leader next year, said it was just an act on Sarkozy's part.
''The Socialist Party is a great movement which will not be put into difficulty by anyone, least of all Nicolas Sarkozy. He is playing. Well we won't play with principles and the rules.'' The head of the IMF has traditionally gone to a European and France is likely to face stiff competition from its EU allies for the post. Developing nations are also pushing for the job, looking to end Europe's stranglehold on the institution.