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Pressure mounts on IMF head to resign
French ruling party says new economic chief must be named as Strauss-Kahn remains detained in New York jail.
Last Modified: 18 May 2011 11:30
IMF head accused of sexual assault is being closely monitored, prison officials claim, but has not tried to harm himself

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF and jailed in New York for alleged sexual assault, is facing growing pressure to resign from the global economic body.

The leader of the French governing party on Wednesday said a replacement for the 62-year-old would have to be worked out "in the coming days", a day after US treasury secretary said Strauss-Kahn should no longer lead the agency.

"I don't see how he can carry out the job as managing director of the IMF," Jean-Francois Cope, leader of France's UMP party, said on Wednesday.

"So, by definition, this question will have to be settled in the coming days.

On Tuesday, Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury secretary, said Strauss-Kahn was "obviously not in the position to run the IMF", in his first comments on the case so far.

The economic chief, who is being detained in New York's notorious Rikers Island jail, has denied all charges. He faces a long prison sentence if convicted.

An unnamed law enforcement official said Strauss-Kahn was placed under suicide watch after undergoing a mental health evaluation.

The official said the IMF chief did not try to harm himself.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on Saturday for allegedly attempting to rape a maid in his hotel room and was held without bail on Monday.

'Element of uncertainty'

Maria Fekter, Austria's finance minister, has told reporters in Brussels, the Belgian capital that Strauss-Kahn "risks damaging the IMF".

"Considering the situation, that bail was denied, he has to figure out for himself, that he is hurting the institution,'' she said on Tuesday.

Elena Salgado, Spain's finance chief, said Strauss-Kahn had to decide for himself whether he wanted to step down, considering the offences he is accused of are "extraordinarily serious".

"If I had to show my solidarity and support for someone it would be toward the woman who has been assaulted, if that is really the case that she has been," she said.

Other European officials were more supportive of the IMF's managing director.

Strauss-Kahn has not yet officially stepped down as IMF chief, but few analysts expect him to remain [AFP]

"I'm very sad and upset. And he's a good friend of mine," Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister, said.

"I didn't like the pictures I've seen on television," Juncker added, referring to footage that showed Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs being escorted by police outside a New York precinct house.

Strauss-Kahn has not yet officially stepped down, but few analysts expect him to remain.

His arrest is not expected to impede the IMF's day-to-day functioning, with the executive board still able to approve loan packages.

The board is expected to authorise rescue loans to Portugal as part of a larger package that European finance ministers negotiated on Monday.

"An element of uncertainty has been injected at a time when the situation is extremely fragile," James Rickards, senior managing director at Tangent Capital Partners, said.

Before his arrest, Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to step down within months and run for president of France in the 2012 elections, so the IMF's executive board is likely to have already been considering replacements.

A new managing director could be selected as early as June or July, Rickards said.

China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the selection for leadership of the IMF should be based on "fairness, transparency and merit", but declined comment on the charges against Strauss-Kahn.

French anger

French Socialist politicians voiced outrage on Tuesday at the parading of Strauss-Kahn before he has a chance to defend himself on charges of attempted rape.

Strauss-Kahn was made by police to walk manacled in front of cameras on his way to a courthouse, and his appearance before a judge was televised.

Jack Lang, the former culture minister, described the treatment of the IMF chief as a "lynching" that had "provoked horror and aroused disgust".

Aubry described the images of Strauss-Khan
in the US as 'degrading' [EPA]

The US justice system, he said, was "politicised" and the judge appeared to have been determined to "make a Frenchman pay" by denying him bail, though his lawyer had offered to post a $1m bond.

To many Americans, the handling of Strauss-Kahn reflected an egalitarian tradition that all crime suspects get the same treatment, regardless of their wealth or power.

Martine Aubry, the French Socialist Party leader, denounced "degrading images" and said France was lucky to have a law on the presumption of innocence that bars media from showing defendants in handcuffs before they are convicted.

Elisabeth Guigou, former justice minister, who drafted that law, called the pre-trial publicity "absolutely sickening".

Another respected former justice minister, Robert Badinter, who pushed through the abolition of the death penalty in France, said the IMF chief had been subjected to "death by media".

"Never forget it's not just judges that are elected [in New York], but prosecutors. And the chief of police is elected.

"And clearly, in public opinion, to exhibit a powerful rich man in the presence of a victim from a very poor background, electorally, it pays off."

Source:
Agencies
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