WASHINGTON Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the selection of the next chief of the International Monetary Fund should be done through an open process that leads to a speedy succession.
Separately, John Lipsky, the IMF's acting managing director, said Thursday that he deeply regrets the circumstances that temporarily placed him in the top position.
Lipsky took over this week after former chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Strauss-Kahn, who is has denied the charges, resigned late Wednesday. That set up a scramble to choose his successor.
Traditionally, the head of the IMF has been a European while an American has run the World Bank. Developing countries have long chafed at that arrangement and are pushing for officials from their countries to be considered this time.
The United States will play a critical role in the selection. The U.S. has the most votes among any individual country, although collectively Europe carries the most weight.
Geithner's statement was ambiguous and leaves open the possibility that the U.S. could support a candidate from either group. Some analysts said the U.S. government will make its preference clearer behind the scenes while keeping a more impartial stance in public.
The IMF is heavily involved in delicate negotiations over financial assistance to troubled European countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland. The European governments are coalescing behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.