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Lagarde begins 1st day as head of IMF

By the CNN Wire Staff
Former finance minister of France Christine Lagarde was elected to the IMF's top job last week.
Former finance minister of France Christine Lagarde was elected to the IMF's top job last week.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The top job was left open by Dominique Strauss-Kahn's resignation
  • Christine Lagarde served as the finance minister of France
  • Lagarde beat out Mexican Central Bank chief Agustin Carstens for the job

(CNN) -- Christine Lagarde is set to take over as the head of the International Monetary Fund Tuesday, the first woman to to run the influential financial institution.

Lagarde, who was the finance minister of France, takes over at a crucial time for the IMF as the organization is working closely with the European Union and the European Central Bank to provide financial support for troubled European economies.

Lagarde will serve a five-year term as the global financial institution's managing director and chairman, the IMF said.

"I am deeply honored by the trust placed in me by the Executive Board," Lagarde said in a statement last week.

She succeeds Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested earlier this year in New York on sexual assault charges.

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The only other contender for the job was Mexican Central Bank chief Agustin Carstens, who was supported by Australia, Canada and Mexico.

The IMF said it selected Lagarde, last week, by a consensus vote.

Lagarde was also backed by the United Kingdom, Germany and most European powers, as well as some Asian and African nations.

The IMF, which is made up of 187 member countries, has traditionally been led by a Western European official.

Some developing nations had pushed to break that tradition, arguing that the IMF should consider candidates from rising economic powers in Asia and South America.

Lagarde, 55, had been French President Nicolas Sarkozy's finance minister since June 2007. She also served as the country's to foreign trade official.

A lawyer by training, Lagarde was a partner at the international law firm of Baker & McKenzie before going into politics.

According to her official biography, Lagarde was born in Paris to school teachers and has two children of her own.

She was a member of the French national synchronized swimming team and was inducted into the nation's Legion of Honor in 2000.