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Christine Lagarde 'Can't Imagine' United States Would Default on Debt

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As the White House continues negotiations with congressional leaders over a budget deal this weekend, newly elected head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde says that she "can't imagine for a second" that the United States would default on its debt obligations, saying it would be "a real shock" to the global economy if no agreement is reached.

"I can't imagine for a second that the United States would default," Lagarde told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview. "But, clearly, this issue of the debt ceiling has to be resolved."

"It would be a real shock, and it would be bad news for the U.S. economy," Lagarde added on the threat of the U.S. not raising the debt ceiling. "So I would hope that there is enough bipartisan intelligence and understanding of the challenge that is ahead of the United States, but also of the rest of the world."

Lagarde, who previously served as France's finance minister, said there could be "real nasty consequences," including rising interest rates, depressed stock markets, increased unemployment, and decreased investment if a deal is not reached by the Aug. 2 deadline facing the United States.

"It would certainly jeopardize the stability, but not just the stability of the U.S. economy, it would jeopardize the stability at large," Lagarde said. "And that's clearly against the purpose and the mission of the International Monetary Fund. So we are concerned and we are very much hoping that a compromise will be found before the deadline."

Lagarde is the first woman to serve as managing director of the IMF, taking over the position last week following the resignation in May of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is currently battling charges that he sexually assaulted a New York hotel maid. That case is now in question because of doubts about the accuser's credibility.

The IMF is still reeling from the drama surrounding Strauss-Kahn, who Lagarde said did "an excellent job" as managing director during his tenure.

"When an institution loses its managing director under such circumstances, there is clearly wounds as a result," Lagarde said. "Some people are very hurt. Other people feel betrayed. It's a very strange chemistry of frustration, irritation, sometimes anger, sometimes very deep sadness as well."

Because of the fallout from the Strauss-Kahn case, Lagarde's contract at the IMF includes specific language about ethical behavior, saying, "You shall strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in your conduct."

"In the back of my mind, when it comes to ethics and whatever I do, I always think to myself, would my mother approve of that?" Lagarde said. "And if she did not, then there's something wrong. It's a basic, stupid principle, maybe, to have. But it's something quite handy and quite efficient."

Regardless of the verdict in the Strauss-Kahn case, Lagarde said she believes it may have helped open a debate among women in France to speak out against harassment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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