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ECB to set post-2017 policy in second half of year, Nowotny tells weekly

European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (Reuters) - The European Central Bank has decided on interest rates and bond purchases for the rest of 2017 and will decide what to do beyond that in the second half of this year, ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said in an interview published on Saturday.

Nowotny's remarks were in line with recent comments by other policymakers pushing back against German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has called for the ECB to move away from its ultra-accommodative monetary policy. But Nowotny's remarks suggested that the soonest any decision would be reached is July.

"We have decided for 2017. We are continuing bond purchases at a reduced level and leaving the interest-rate structures as they are," Nowotny said in an interview with Austrian magazine Profil. "In the second half of the year we will then reach the decisions concerning the period after the end of 2017."

Schaeuble argued on Thursday that the ECB should follow the U.S. Federal Reserve's lead in charting a course away from an accommodative monetary policy. Nowotny said the situation in the euro zone did not allow that yet.

"The Americans have de facto full employment and an inflation rate close to 2 percent. In the euro zone we have unemployment of roughly 10 percent and inflation is only picking up slowly," Nowotny, who heads the Austrian central bank, was quoted as saying.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy, editing by Larry King)