France's Lagarde Named To Head IMF

Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, is the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde will take the place of Dominique Strauss-Kahn who resigned after being arrested on rape charges in New York City.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

France is hailing the appointment of its finance minister, Christine Lagarde, to head the International Monetary Fund.

As Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris, the new IMF chief has her work cut out for her.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Fifty-five-year-old Christine Lagarde has no formal training as an economist. What she does have is two decades of experience as a trial lawyer, keen negotiating skills, impeccable English, and close relations with world financial leaders. And, she is a woman, a sure asset for an IMF still reeling from the resignation of its former managing director, Dominique Strauss Kahn, after being charged with sexual assault in New York.

Ms. CHRISTINE LAGARDE (Managing director, International Monetary Fund): (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Speaking on French television, a beaming Lagarde said President Nicolas Sarkozy had called to congratulate her. She thanked the team, who she said, had supported and taught her.

Ms. LAGARDE: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: You know, I came into politics when I was 50, said Lagarde, but I have worked hard and learned much; still, I've put up with a lot and learned when to keep my mouth shut.

Lagarde gave up a $600,000-a-year job as a partner in a Chicago law firm to join the French government just five years ago. In her new position, she'll be immediately put to the test by the reemerging Greek debt crisis. Though she's long fought to save the euro currency, Lagarde now represents the world, say analysts, and must show the expertise and dispassion to judge whether the IMF is doing the right thing in bailing out the Greek economy again.

For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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