French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has announced she will seek the top job at the International Monetary Fund.
Many European countries, including Germany and Britain, have offered their backing to a candidacy by her to run the IMF, which provides billions in loans to shore up the world economy.
Ms Lagarde had been silent about her intentions until she announced at a press conference that she wants the job.
The IMF's last managing director, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quit last week after he was accused of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid.
"If I'm elected I'll bring all my expertise as a lawyer, a minister, a manager and a woman" to the job, Ms Lagarde said.
She indicated she would not focus exclusively on Europe. "No zone has been spared by the financial crisis," she said. "I want to get the biggest possible consensus for my candidacy."
The IMF has traditionally been run by a European, while the World Bank has been run by an American. But representatives of major developing nations on the IMF's board issued a joint statement urging the lending agency to abandon that practice.
Ms Lagarde emerged as the European front-runner in part on her reputation for her deftness at international negotiations to stabilise the world economy during the world financial crisis.
She also was seen as instrumental in getting the IMF and European Union to agree on rescue plans for Greece, Ireland and Portugal when their debt crises threatened the entire shared euro currency.
The 55-year-old spent much of her career in the United States, where she headed a Chicago law firm. With excellent English, a direct manner and relatively pristine image, she is seen as a good candidate to quickly step into Strauss-Kahn's shoes and manage Europe's continuing debt difficulties.