The International Monetary Fund's board on Monday blocked Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer from the race for the top IMF job, further boosting the chances of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

In a surprise move, the IMF board rejected changing the IMF's rules that would have allowed 67-year-old Fischer to run, two board official told Reuters. IMF rules stipulate an age limit of 65 for an incoming managing director. Commenting on his disqualification due to age, Fischer said "I was hoping the directorate would change the policy not only on my behalf, but also for the sake of future candidates."

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The officials said changing the rules for Fischer would have required a reopening of the selection process to allow other candidates older than 65 to participate in the race.

Fischer accepted the rejection humbly, saying "I will continue to fill with joy and great pride my role at the Bank of Israel."

An IMF board statement issued later confirmed it had shortlisted Lagarde and Mexico's central bank chief Agustin Carstens and would consider their nominations but made no mention of Fischer.

"The executive board will meet with the candidates in Washington and, thereafter, meet to discuss the strengths of the candidates and make a selection," the board said.

It reiterated that it planned to complete the selection by June 30.

Front-runner Lagarde is backed by the European Union and a handful of other countries including Indonesia, the first large emerging market to declare its support for her.

Carstens has the support of a dozen Latin American countries, including Colombia, in a race which, despite being one of the most hotly contested in IMF history, is widely expected to result in Europe maintaining its 65-year grip on the job.

Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.

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