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ECB sees no deflation risk for now: Praet

European Central Bank Executive Board member Peter Praet speaks during a meeting organised by The Economist in Cascais February 18, 2014. RE
European Central Bank Executive Board member Peter Praet speaks during a meeting organised by The Economist in Cascais February 18, 2014. RE

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Central Bank sees no current risk of deflation nor signs of people delaying purchases, policymaker Peter Praet said in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday.

Praet, who holds the economics portfolio on the ECB's Executive Board, told Belgian newspaper De Standaard that persistently low inflation would represent a risk.

But this was at the moment being mainly driven by subdued food and energy costs. Energy prices are highly volatile.

"Weak demand and high unemployment could also be playing a role," he said.

The ECB's mandate is to deliver price stability, which it defines as inflation of close to but below 2 percent over the medium term.

Euro zone inflation is currently running at just 0.8 percent - well below target. "We accept that price developments are weak and that the weakness is continuing in the medium term," Praet said.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank had not changed interest rates this month because of the need for more information about the economic recovery, putting markets on alert for a possible move in March, when the region's updated inflation outlook is due.

The ECB holds its next policy meeting on March 6.

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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