Europe needs to keep tightening its belt to bring down debt levels but cuts in spending need not be too severe too soon, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

"We believe it is a question of pace," Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, told the Economic Club of New York.

"(Reforms) don't have to be brutal or abrupt or massively front-loaded. Those under financial pressure have to demonstrate the ability to do so but be mindful of the fabric of society," she said in the run up to the IMF's spring meeting in Washington.

(Reporting By Daniel Bases; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)