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UPDATE 1-IMF says launches "open, merit-based" search for new leader

David Lawder

(Adds details on IMF selection process, European front-runners, byline)

WASHINGTON, July 26 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Friday its executive board adopted an "open, merit-based and transparent" process to select a new leader to replace Christine Lagarde, with the aim of choosing a candidate by Oct. 4.

The IMF's board in a statement made no mention of specific potential candidates, but said its next leader should have a "distinguished record" in senior-level economic policymaking and the management and diplomatic skills needed to run a large global organization.

Lagarde will replace European Central Bank Chairman Mario Draghi in November. On Thursday he ruled himself out as a candidate to lead the IMF.

The board said that similar to other recent leadership selection rounds, it aims to reach a decision by consensus, and nominations may be made by any fund governors or executive director. The nomination period runs from July 29 to Sept. 6.

Since its founding at the end of World War Two, the IMF has been led by a European, and analysts say the tradition is likely to remain unbroken this time around, although major European countries have yet to settle on a candidate.

Leading candidates discussed by European officials last week at a G7 finance leaders meeting in France included Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch former head of euro zone finance ministers; Nadia Calvino, the Spanish economy minister; Mario Centeno, the Portuguese chairman of euro zone finance ministers; and Olli Rehn, the Finnish central bank governor.

The European selection debate is being coordinated by France, whose finance minister Bruno Le Maire had said he was aiming for a decision on a European candidate by the end of July.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, a Canadian with Irish and British passports, had appeared to be out of the running at the G7 meeting.

The IMF board said if more than three candidates were nominated, it would narrow the field to three shortlisted candidates based on their relative support on the board and will make their names public.

Choosing a candidate by Oct. 4 would allow the fund to present its new leader at the IMF and World Bank 2019 annual meetings, scheduled for Oct. 14-20 in Washington. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Richard Chang)