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PARIS (Reuters) - France on Monday nominated a former head of the European Food Safety Agency as its candidate for the next director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the international body coordinating efforts to fight hunger.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert announced the candidacy of civil servant Catherine Geslain-Laneelle, who led EFSA from 2006-13, at a meeting of European Union farm ministers in Brussels.

There has been no European director general of the Rome-based FAO for over 40 years since Dutchman Addeke Hendrik Boerma in 1968-75. It has also never been directed by a woman.

"The challenge is very impressive and worth embarking on a year-long campaign that will undoubtedly be difficult, full of obstacles and whose outcome is obviously uncertain," Geslain-Laneelle, 55, told Reuters.

Geslain-Laneelle, who has the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron, is the first declared applicant for the post.

Delegates from the FAO's 194 member states will hold an election for the next FAO director in June 2019, ahead of the Aug. 31 expiry of Brazilian Jose Graziano da Silva's term.

France already chairs the U.N. educational and cultural agency UNESCO and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A Lebanese citizen headed the FAO between 1976 and 1993 and a Senegalese between 1994 and 2011.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Simon Carraud; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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