* Rate-setters leave key rate unchanged at 2.0 percent
* Cuts not ruled out if deflation persists, growth slows
* Governor, in minority, sees space for rate cut (Updates with central bank comments)
By Pawel Sobczak and Jakub Iglewski
WARSAW, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Poland’s central bank left its main interest rate unchanged on Wednesday but signalled that it would be paying closer attention to deflation when deciding whether to cut rates in the next few months.
The bank’s governor, Marek Belka, said he thought there was room for a rate cut. But as at previous sittings of the bank’s rate-setting council, he appears to have been unable to persuade a majority of his colleagues to back him.
Poland’s economy, the largest in central Europe, grew an estimated 3.4 percent last year. That is enviable by the standards of its European Union peers. But the picture is clouded by consumer prices falling late last year at their sharpest rate in three decades.
Falling world oil prices have added to deflationary pressures, which can stifle economic growth as consumers defer spending in the hope that prices fall more.
The bank’s 10-member Monetary Policy Council issued a statement saying it did not rule out a rate cut if deflation persists or the economy slows.
That marked a change from the previous month when it said that a cut would depend on risks to growth but did not mention deflation as a factor influencing any such cut.
“We are seeing once again, in very small steps, a movement in the direction of rate cuts after a couple of months when the Council ruled out that possibility,” said Grzegorz Ogonek, economist at ING Bank Slaski.
“We are seeing a reformulation of the key paragraphs, which restores the weight given to the question or inflation, or the prolonged deflation.”
Belka told a news conference an adjustment of monetary policy was possible in the long term. “But the view of the majority of the council is that there is no reason to hurry very much with this,” he said.
He did though offer his own differing view: “I think there is space for a rate cut.”
Analysts polled by Reuters earlier this month forecast that the central bank would leave interest rates flat, but they expect a 25 basis points cut by the end of the first quarter.
Immediately after the bank announced its decision to leave rates flat, the zloty currency was unchanged against the euro at 4.2873, or 0.18 percent below Tuesday’s close. (Additional reporting by Jakub Iglewski; Editing by Marcin Goclowski and Hugh Lawson)