* Says Europe has no right to job but it makes sense
* Developing countries could claim headship in medium term
* IMF role in euro crisis talks unchanged -Merkel spokesman
(Recasts, adds Merkel quotes and background)
By Gernot Heller and Annika Breidthardt
BERLIN, May 16 (Reuters) - It makes sense for Europe to keep the top job at the lnternational Monetary Fund for now given its role in tackling the euro zone crisis, though the post may go to the developing world in the future, Germany’s leader said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday it was not yet time to discuss who should succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with sexual assault in New York, and that the current head of the global lender should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
“Generally, we know that in the medium term developing countries certainly have a claim both to the post of IMF chief as well World Bank chief,” Merkel said in Berlin.
“I believe however that in the current phase, there are good reasons for Europe to have good candidates ready.”
The IMF chief was charged on Sunday with the attempted rape of a New York hotel maid, sparking speculation about who might replace him as head of the Washington-based lender and as candidate for the French presidency. [ID:nN15218515]
In an earlier regular news conference, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Europe had no automatic right to the IMF top job but that the region had a case for a home-grown successor.
“Europe has no subscription to this executive position,” he said. “If you look at the current situation, where coping with the crisis in several euro states is absorbing the IMF so much, there are several reasons for the government to argue that there is a good European candidate.”
“We will talk about that with all our partners in the IMF in case a successor is even needed,” Seibert said.
Euro zone finance ministers meet on Monday to back an European Union/IMF bailout for Portugal, in talks overshadowed by the charges against Strauss-Kahn. [ID:nLDE74E0N7]
While it seems unlikely the IMF’s activities will be significantly affected by Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, it comes on the eve of a series of new talks on how to handle the euro zone crisis.
The Frenchman had been due to meet Merkel in Berlin on Sunday and join euro zone finance ministers on Monday to discuss the debt crisis, where Greece for one is struggling to meet the terms of a 110 billion euro EU/IMF bailout it was granted last year.
The IMF would still play its full role in resolving the euro zone crisis, regardless of the outcome of the case against Strauss-Kahn, Seibert said.
“The IMF will be able to play its role in solving the world’s financial problems and specifically the problems of the euro zone, where it plays a really important role, without any limits,” Seibert told a regular news conference in Berlin.
Asked whether Italy’s Mario Draghi may now be a candidate to head the IMF instead of running as a successor for European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet, as one German magazine had reported, Seibert said:
“The German government, like other European governments, has voiced its support for Mario Draghi at the helm of the ECB if he makes his candidacy official and that remains the case.”
In Rome, a Bank of Italy spokeswoman said on Monday Draghi was not interested in the top IMF job. [ID:nRMEGGE7R7]
Additional reporting by Stephen Brown and Sam Cage, Editing by Toby Chopra, John Stonestreet