By Louise Egan
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens said on Tuesday he has spoken with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his Canadian counterparts, but neither committed to back his candidacy for the top job at the IMF.
Carstens was in the Canadian capital on Tuesday for meetings with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, touting his experience in crisis management and as a skilled political negotiator.
Besides Carstens, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is so far the only other formal candidate for the position of managing director at the International Monetary Fund and is believed to be the front-runner.
"I have talked with Secretary Geithner and basically what he said is what he has repeated more than once, and that is that both Madame Lagarde and myself are credible candidates and that they welcome and are looking forward to an open process," Carstens said.
The job fell vacant after former boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York.
Flaherty suggested additional candidates may emerge before the nomination process closes on Friday.
"We have not taken a decision about supporting either candidate," Flaherty told reporters in Montreal.
"So far, only two, but there is still talk that there might be more than two," he said.
Emerging nations have not rallied behind Carstens and there is hope in some quarters that another candidate will emerge that can win the backing of the so-called BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Tuesday the BRICS group is still talking about a candidate. South Africa's former finance minister Trevor Manuel is a possible contender.
Emerging nations are demanding a bigger voice in the IMF to match their growing economic clout. The top IMF job has traditionally gone to a European and Carstens described his candidacy as a challenge to the status quo.
Referring to his talks with his Canadian counterparts, Carstens said: "The position they have held so far is one shared by other countries, and that is that they welcome an emerging market participant with credentials like mine, but they want to see ... all the candidates that will be nominated in the process," he said.
Lagarde failed to win the immediate approval of India during a visit there on Tuesday and was headed for China Wednesday in her next stop.
Carstens said he understood why the Europeans felt the need to have one of their own at the helm of the IMF as they grapple with the debt crisis. But he said if a European IMF chief could help Latin America overcome crises in the past, a Latin American leader could do the same for Europe.
"There is this belief that a European would have some advantage ... but I also can say that someone from the emerging markets with experience in crisis management ... could also help Europe tremendously to solve their problems."
The race for the IMF job was "not an easy battle," he said. "But if I didn't believe I had the chance I wouldn't be doing this effort."
(Reporting by Louise Egan in Ottawa and Claire Sibonney in Montreal; editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson)