* Mexico's Carstens urges emerging markets to back him
* Carstens says IMF should serve all countries
* Peru, Brazil undecided on IMF candidate vote (Adds quotes, background, Carstens' letter)
By Jason Lange and Luis Rojas Mena
MEXICO CITY, May 23 (Reuters) - Mexico's central bank chief Agustin Carstens launched his bid to lead the International Monetary Fund, urging developing nations to back a single candidate who can "take the battle to the Europeans."
Mexico nominated Carstens on Monday as the first challenger for the post traditionally held by a European after former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned to face charges he tried to rape a hotel maid.
Europe has monopolized the post since the IMF's inception at the end of World War Two. But the importance of emerging markets in the global economic recovery has helped these countries challenge the six-decade "gentleman's agreement."
"The challenge for emerging market countries is to achieve unity around a single man who can take the battle to the Europeans," Carstens told local radio. "It's worth fighting for."
Carstens, who was a deputy managing director at the IMF for three years before becoming Mexico's finance minister in 2006, said he felt qualified for the position.
In an letter to the IMF executive board, Carstens said the body needs a leader who won't just focus on hot spots, taking a dig at the oft-expressed view in Europe that a European would best understand the region's sovereign debt crisis.
"We need a managing director who can best serve all of the member countries, not merely those experiencing challenges at one particular point in time," Carstens wrote.
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is seen as the frontrunner to succeed Strauss-Kahn at the global lender. Support from the United States as well as Europe would clinch her candidacy. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
For a profile of Agustin Carstens: [ID:nN31220972]
For more stories on the IMF successor debate: [ID:nDSK] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero would not say if Mexico had gained support yet from other countries, while Peru and Brazil said they both needed more time to think it over. For details, see [ID:nSAG002869] [ID:nN23176770]
"We are starting to talk to our colleagues and work on making this possible," Cordero told reporters.
Carstens, head of Mexico's central bank since January 2010, would be among the most serious contenders for the top job, he said.
Britain endorsed Lagarde on Saturday, becoming the first G7 country to officially back her.
Carstens said countries should not decide to support anyone before the full list of candidates is known. He told reporters hasty endorsements meant countries were not "taking the process seriously." Nominations can be lodged until June 10; a decision is due by the end of the month.
The developing world's clout has grown as it has led the global recovery from recession following the financial crisis.
Countries ranging from China to Brazil and South Africa have publicly urged that the next head of the IMF should be selected on merit.
India, for one, favors emerging economies jointly putting forward a candidate to head the IMF, even if their bid is ultimately unsuccessful, two Indian finance ministry sources said on Monday. [ID:nL3E7GN1Z6] (Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Gary Crosse and Jan Paschal)