Japan ex-MOF Watanabe questions Europe's entitlement to IMF helm

TOKYO Wed May 18, 2011 6:53am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Former Japanese currency czar Hiroshi Watanabe questioned on Wednesday Europe's right to the top job of the IMF after the arrest of Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on attempted rape charges, saying the post should be subject to an open competition.

Watanabe, who is a member of the Asian regional advisory group at the IMF, made the remark as some emerging nations seek to challenge a traditional way that the IMF job goes to a European.

"When European countries nominated him (Stauss-Kahn) as its representative, they agreed to some extent that they would not assert the post should be reserved for Europe from next time,"

Watanabe, who served as deputy minister for international affairs for three years to July 2007, told reporters.

"I think (Europe) will probably not reverse that spirit."

Europeans said it made sense for them to retain the post while the International Monetary Fund plays such a crucial role in helping to ease the euro zone debt crisis.

Watanabe is currently head of the state-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and has close ties with policymakers within and outside of Japan.

He would not comment when asked about whether Japan would put forward its own candidate. In 2000, Japan nominated its former currency czar Eisuke Sakakibara, who was known as Mr Yen, as a candidate for IMF chief.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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