updated 1/9/2005 5:48:35 PM ET 2005-01-09T22:48:35

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday nominated Citigroup vice chairman Stanley Fischer to be the next governor of the Bank of Israel, the country’s central bank, Sharon’s office said.

Fischer, 61, joined Citigroup Inc. in 2002 after seven years as an executive with the International Monetary Fund. He previously was head of the department of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Fischer, who speaks Hebrew, was born in Zambia and studied economics in London before getting his Ph.D at MIT in 1969.

Ilan Cohen, chief of staff at Sharon’s office, said the hunt for a governor had included a number of foreign candidates including central bank governors and former finance ministers, but he did not name them. Among the local contenders were the incumbent, David Klein — seeking a second five-year term — a former Israeli treasury head and a former commercial bank CEO, Haaretz newspaper reported.

“Among the Israelis we met there were several who could certainly be governor of the Bank of Israel,” Cohen told Israel Radio, adding that Fischer had been in the outer ranks of prospective candidates until he offered to immigrate to Israel and become an Israeli citizen, which is his right as a Jew, under Israeli law.

“What changed the situation was that suddenly a man at that level — who has even been mentioned as a candidate to be chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, an economist with an international reputation — suddenly he says yes, he says he is ready to become an Israeli citizen, so then he became a suitable candidate,” Cohen said.

A statement from Sharon’s office said Fischer has experience with Israel’s economy, having served as an American government adviser to Israel’s economic stabilization program in 1985, which succeeded in bringing the country’s hyperinflation down from triple digits to around 10 percent in the course of about a year.

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