* Austria,Spain finmins question Strauss-Kahn's IMF
* Strauss-Kahn in Rikers Island prison
* French Socialists to push on with primary campaign
* IMF in turmoil during euro zone crisis
(Recasts to add European finance ministers)
By Basil Katz and Daniel Flynn
NEW YORK/BRUSSELS, May 17 Dominique
Strauss-Kahn faced pressure from European officials to quit as
head of the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday after he
spent his first night in a notorious New York jail.
With the IMF in turmoil following the arrest of its
managing director on criminal charges including attempted rape,
China and Brazil challenged Europe's grip on the Fund's top
In France, many Socialist leaders voiced outrage at the way
Strauss-Kahn, a front runner for the French presidency, had
been paraded handcuffed and unshaven by U.S. police before he
has had a chance to defend himself in court.
But two European finance ministers questioned the viability
of Strauss-Kahn's continued leadership of an institution that
is central to efforts to steady the world economy.
Asked whether the Frenchman should quit, Austrian Finance
Minister Maria Fekter said after a European Union meeting:
"Given the situation, that bail has been denied, he has to
consider that he would otherwise do damage to the
Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado cast doubt on
"It's important to ensure the stability of institutions,
but we also must trust Mr Strauss-Khan to use his best
judgment. In this case at least, although in other cases, he
does not seem to have done so," she told Spanish radio.
Salgado told reporters in Brussels it was up to
Strauss-Kahn to decide whether he should quit "but the crimes
he is accused of are very serious ... My solidarity first and
foremost is with the woman who suffered the attack, if that was
Strauss-Kahn was arrested aboard an Air France plane on
Saturday and charged with a sexual assault on a chambermaid at
a luxury Manhattan hotel. He denies the accusations.
A judge denied him bail on Monday, remanding him to the
city's grim Rikers Island jail, where he spent the night.
In a significant move on Tuesday, China said on Tuesday
that the selection of the next IMF boss should be based on
"fairness, transparency and merit."
China last year become the third-largest member country in
the IMF, after the United States and Japan and leapfrogging
China's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the charges
against Strauss-Kahn. But a spokeswoman, asked about how IMF
leaders are chosen, said: "We believe that this should be based
on the principles of fairness, transparency and merit."
It is the first time that China has weighed in early and so
publicly on an IMF selection debate.
All 10 managing directors to have run the Fund since it was
created after the World War Two have been Europeans, including
four Frenchmen, the most recent of them Strauss-Kahn.
SOCIALIST SOLIDARITY IN FRANCE
An emergency Socialist leadership meeting in Paris staged a
rare show of unity amid consternation over the probable loss of
the center-left's most popular contender to unseat conservative
President Nicolas Sarkozy in next April's election.
"Unity, responsibility, combativity, these are the three
words which came up the most this morning," Socialist party
leader Martine Aubry told reporters after the session.
"There was emotion, of course, and the shock we all feel,
but it is our responsibility to be up to the task," she said.
Strauss-Kahn has neither resigned from the
Washington-based IMF nor dropped out of the French race so far.
But he seems bound to be sidelined by a prolonged legal case.
Sarkozy, whose approval ratings had slumped to a record low
of 20 percent, received another campaign boost with news that
his wife, singer and former model Carla Bruni, is expecting a
child later this year. [ID:nLDE74G0MF]
Sarkozy urged center-right lawmakers at a closed-door
breakfast to show "restraint and dignity" and refrain from
comment on the Strauss-Kahn case, participants said.
More on the arrest [ID:nDSK]
Criminal procedure factbox [ID:nN15107742]
Factbox on possible successors [ID:nLDE74F1IO]
Analysis on IMF and euro zone [ID:nLDE74E083]
French politics impact [ID:nLDE74F0E1]
BREAKINGVIEWS columns [ID:nLDE74F0LF][ID:nLDE74F0G7]
SHOCK AND ANGER
The Socialists agreed they would not change the selection
timetable, which calls for candidates to register by July 13
for a primary election to be held in October.
French politicians and some commentators voiced shock and
anger at the judge's decision to refuse Strauss-Kahn bail.
Former Culture Minister Jack Lang described the treatment
as a "lynching" that had "provoked horror and aroused
The U.S. justice system, he said, was "politicized" and the
judge appeared to have been determined to "make a Frenchman
pay." Other senior Socialists said that displaying the IMF
chief in handcuffs escorted by burly policemen violated his
right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court.
Strauss-Kahn denies the charges and his legal team has
denied police accounts that he fled the hotel. He is next due
to appear in court on Friday.
In an apparent hint at the defense's strategy, his lawyer
Benjamin Brafman told his arraignment hearing: "The evidence we
believe will not be consistent with a forcible encounter."
Apart from blasting the French presidential race wide open,
Strauss-Kahn's arrest has thrown the Fund into turmoil just as
it is playing a key role in helping euro zone states like
Greece and Portugal tackle debt woes.
The Washington-based IMF board, which was briefed
informally on the case on Monday, has so far held off on
deciding whether or not to remove him from his job.
Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg joined a string of
European officials on Tuesday in saying that a successor to
Strauss-Kahn should come from Europe because of the IMF's deep
involvement in the euro zone debt crisis. [ID:nLDE74G1LB]