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* Lagarde became head of IMF in 2011
* European leaders want her to take helm of ECB
* Critics say she lacks qualifications for monetary policy job (Adds detail)
AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France, July 7 (Reuters) - European Central Bank policymaker Benoit Coeure defended on Sunday the nomination of outgoing International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde to lead the ECB, calling her "uniquely qualified" after critics said she lacked relevant experience.
Lagarde, former French finance minister and IMF director since 2011, was tapped by European leaders last week to replace Mario Draghi at the ECB.
Some commentators have been quick to point out however that she is not a trained economist and has no experience in central banking, unlike her predecessor.
"Christine Lagarde is uniquely qualified to lead the ECB at a time when challenges are both internal and external to the euro zone," Coeure told journalists on the sidelines of an economic conference in southern France.
"She knows how the global economy works. She knows how Europe works. And she knows how to talk to financial markets," he added.
Lagarde's nomination has reinforced financial market expectations of more monetary policy easing if needed, pulling bond yields lower.
A lawyer by training, Lagarde was France's finance minister under then president Nicolas Sarkozy until she left to lead the IMF, where her reputation as a shrewd navigator of international power politics has grown.
Lagarde was due to give a speech on Friday at the economic conference in Aix-en-Provence where Coeure spoke, but canceled her public appearance after her nomination last week.
She attended a performance of the opera Tosca in Aix-en-Provence on Saturday night on the sidelines of the conference, however, where many of the business leaders and politicians at the event go to socialize.
Coeure, whose term at the ECB ends at the end of the year, told BFM Business television that he was not a candidate to replace Lagarde at the IMF.
"My specialty now is Europe, so I want to stay in Europe and serve in Europe, we'll see in what way, there are different ways to do so, but I am not a candidate for the IMF," he said in a segment of an interview due to air on Monday. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky)