French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was named Tuesday as the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund, a widely expected appointment that prolongs Europe's monopoly on the position.

"The executive board of the International Monetary Fund today selected Christine Lagarde to serve as IMF managing director ... for a five-year term starting on July 5," the inter-governmental organization said in a statement on its Web site.

Lagarde succeeds countryman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned on May 18 after being arrested on charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a hotel maid in New York.

Currently under house arrest in New York while awaiting trial, Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty earlier this month.

The French minister becomes the first woman to lead the multilateral lender and takes the reins at a time when a deteriorating debt crisis in Greece has shaken global markets and cast doubt on the euro's future.

The explicit backing Lagarde received from the United States, Brazil and Russia on Tuesday helped her beat out Mexican central bank Gov. Agustin Carstens, who came up short despite last-minute support from Canada and Australia.

The 24-member executive board, which represents the IMF's 187 member nations, said the two candidates were "well qualified" and that its objective was to select one "by consensus."

The race for the top IMF post touched off by Strauss-Kahn's resignation has been the most hotly contested in the institution's six-decade history.

The BRICs bloc of big emerging-market economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - had initially said Europe's lock on the managing director post was the result of an "obsolete unwritten convention" and that choosing a new leader based on his or her nationality would undermine the Fund's legitimacy.

In the end, however, those nations did not close ranks around an alternative to Lagarde.

Carstens, for his part, praised the selection of the French finance minister, saying she will be a "very competent leader" of the IMF.