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By Mick Krever, CNN
Action to save the euro is needed in “more shortly than three months,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.
Lagarde’s tight deadline was a response to billionaire investor George Soros’ prediction that Europe has three months to save the euro.
“The construction of the eurozone has taken time,” Lagarde said. “And it’s a work in construction at the moment.”
Lagarde declined to predict whether Greece would exit the eurozone.
“It’s going to be a question of political determination and drive,” she said.
Lagarde came under fire recently for highlighting Greek tax evasion. She apologized that her comments were taken “in a very inflammatory way and created offence.”
“But equally,” she said, “I think that tax compliance is a necessary tool to restore any country’s situation – Greece, like others.”
Austerity vs. Stimulus
The accelerating crisis in Europe has brought into starker focus than ever the argument over stimulus versus austerity.
In a press conference on Friday that focused heavily on the economic situation in Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama said that austerity, coupled with rising unemployment, “can actually make it harder for [European governments] to carry out some of these reforms over the long term.”
“You need to reduce the fiscal deficit gradually, steadily,” Lagarde said. “It doesn't have to be this belt-tightening that everybody is talking about, but it has to be solid.”
The female Chancellor
Amanpour asked Lagarde if she believed German Chancellor would get so much criticism if she weren’t a woman.
Lagarde seemed taken aback by the question, and took a long pause. “No,” she said.
“I think she’s a very strong leader. She’s a very courageous woman.” Lagarde said.
“It’s, you know, surprisingly and, and very practically, a male-dominated world, where she stands out.”
CNN’s Ken Olshansky produced this piece for television.