who guided the agency through the turbulence of the Asian currency crisis, will step down early next year, an IMF official said Tuesday.

Mr. Camdessus hopes to leave the agency by mid-February. Appointed in 1987, Mr. Camdessus is in a third term, which expires in 2002.

The IMF hastily scheduled a late afternoon staff meeting at which Mr. Camdessus was to address IMF employees.

His early departure from the job of managing director, which he has held longer than any other official at the 185-nation lending agency, had been rumored since 1997.

Possible successors include Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the Bank of France; Italian Treasury Director General Mario Draghi; Andrew Crockett, head of the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland; Mervyn King, deputy governor of the Bank of England; and Horst Koehler, head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. -- Dow Jones

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