* Calls for more leadership roles in IMF for kingdom
* Lagarde stops in Saudi Arabia on IMF campaign tour
* Says sovereign debt a priority for IMF if she in charge
* IMF should support Mideast states hit by unrest
(Recasts to lede with Saudi calling for increased IMF role)
By Asma Alsharif
JEDDAH, June 11 Saudi Arabia will seek a greater
role in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its finance
minister said on Saturday after meeting with France's Christine
Lagarde on her campaign to head the Washington-based lender.
French Finance Minister Lagarde is the frontrunner for the
job left vacant by the resignation of compatriot Dominique
Strauss-Kahn, but she is working hard to persuade emerging
powers angry that another European is being appointed.
"Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the world economy
and so we will call for strengthening the kingdom's role and
share in the IMF," Ibrahim Alassaf told reporters in Jeddah
after the pair met.
He also called for an increase in the number of Saudis
working in leadership roles in the IMF.
The kingdom has a 2.81 percent share in the fund, according
to the IMF website. This compares with the U.S. which has the
largest share of 16.78 percent.
Lagarde is backed by the European Union and a handful of
smaller countries from Georgia to Mauritius and is hoping for
support from China and the United States that would all but
guarantee her the job.
South Africa's Trevor Manuel ruled himself out of the race
for the job on Friday, making Lagarde an even firmer favourite,
although she remains under threat of a judicial inquiry in her
home country. [ID:nLDE75910M]
Her main remaining international competition is from Mexican
central bank chief Agustin Carstens.
Lagarde said she would make tackling sovereign debt troubles
a priority for the IMF if appointed.
"There are specific issues to deal with and clearly some of
the sovereign debt crisis issues are one of the priorities at
the moment," Lagarde told Reuters earlier on Saturday.
"I will certainly look at one of the purposes of the fund
which is to restore stability."
Lagarde said that the IMF should also support countries
affected by the pro-democracy protest movement sweeping North
Africa and the Middle East.
"If I were elected I want to participate as closely as
possible, bringing the special expertise of the fund in order to
help out those countries together with the bilateral support
that is given by specific countries such as Saudi Arabia," she
Riyadh has pledged $4 billion in aid to Egypt and was also
instrumental in a $20 billion handout to Bahrain and Oman for
One potential pitfall for Lagarde is a legal investigation
into her role in a 2008 arbitration payout to a French
A top French court on Friday put off until July 8 its
decision on whether to open a formal inquiry into allegations by
opposition left-wing deputies that she abused her authority in
approving a 285 million-euro payout to a businessman friend of
President Nicolas Sarkozy.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Writing by Jason Benham;
Editing by Brian Love and Patrick Graham)