WASHINGTON - Lebanon needs urgent action on comprehensive economic reforms to avoid "irreversible consequences" for its economy, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.

IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack told reporters that reforms were needed to arrest the "severe and deepening crisis" facing the Lebanese economy.

She said IMF official Jihad Azour, a former Lebanese finance minister, was on temporary leave to avoid any perceived conflict of interest, after his nomination by Lebanon's opposition, independent and main Christian parties to challenge Hezbollah-backed candidate Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)