FRENCH Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has given his backing to demands for reform of the global-financial system and has urged a stronger role for the International Monetary Fund. 'We need to move towards a remodelling of the world's financial architecture,' he said. 'We must bolster the political legitimacy of the IMF and review its practical forms of organisation and operation.' Speaking at a conference in Hong Kong yesterday on economic co-operation between Europe and Asia, he said it was time to overhaul the Bretton Woods agreement - a post-World War II plan which created the IMF. He called for the role of the IMF's central policy forum, the Interim Committee, to be given greater powers to enforce international economic and financial regulations. 'I think it is necessary to give it more power.' Mr Jospin is the latest Western leader to back calls from Asia for an overhaul of the international-regulatory regime covering financial markets and signals a possible sea change in world opinion. The comments came at the end of a visit to the mainland, during which Mr Jospin, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji signed a joint declaration on financial co-operation between France and the mainland. Last week, French President Jacques Chirac also called for the IMF to be given more teeth in an address to world leaders. Following the conference, Mr Jospin was scheduled to attend a banquet at Government House hosted by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, before returning to France. Mr Jospin avoided any commitment to directly help Asia's troubled economies, preferring instead to emphasise inter-regional co-operation through the IMF. The lack of assistance from the European Union countries was criticised by Hang Lung Development chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chung, who accused Europe of navel-gazing. 'I think we are disappointed that Europe is so totally preoccupied with European affairs,' he said, Also speaking at the conference, he said it was time to strengthen European ties with Asia to avoid both continents being too dependent on the US. The US, he said, was becoming 'less dependable' and was elevating democracy and human rights to a level where it was having a counter-productive effect on the economy. He said a new global architecture should create a triangle connecting Europe, Asia and the US. 'The problem in this new architecture is not between Europe and the US. Neither is it between Asia and the US. The weak link is, no doubt, between Europe and Asia.' His provocative comments left the audience of local businessmen, French business representatives operating in the region and Mr Jospin's delegation momentarily hushed. In his speech, Mr Jospin said the present crisis had shown the need for greater financial transparency. 'In particular, the drafting and implementation of international standards is necessary not only for banking supervision and prudential regulation, but also for the other institutions in the financial sector. I am thinking, among other things, of the various investment funds.' He praised the 'Asian miracle' which saw averaged annual growth rates of over 6 per cent between 1965 and 1995, but social development had 'not always' kept pace.