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By Axel Threlfall
LONDON (Reuters) - The European Central Bank's guidance on interest rates staying at record lows extends beyond 12 months, and the bank could yet pursue other measures to shore up the euro zone, ECB policymaker Joerg Asmussen said on Tuesday.
Abandoning its traditional policy of never pre-committing on future rates, the ECB said last Thursday it would keep its interest rates at present or lower levels for an "extended period" - its first use of so-called forward guidance.
Asked what an extended period meant, Asmussen said: "(ECB President) Mario Draghi said in his press conference it is not six months, it's not 12, it goes beyond."
The ECB discussed cutting interest rates but in the end decided to leave them unchanged.
"All decisions last Thursday were taken with unanimity," Asmussen told Reuters Insider TV in an interview.
Asked whether he would rule out the ECB announcing a new bumper long-term loans operation to banks, known as an LTRO, Asmussen said: "I would not rule out this ... we have a whole range of non-standard instruments that can be deployed if and when the need arises."
"I'm not ruling out anything," he said when asked about another interest rate cut, though there was no need for further action as things stand.
"We are now driving exactly at the right speed. We would not have a foot on the brake and also not on the accelerator. This is given the data as we see them right now," he said.
The euro's losses against the dollar accelerated in response, pushing the single currency down to $1.2786, the lowest since early April. <FRX/}
The ECB's move last week to give guidance on its expectations for the course of monetary policy was driven by market volatility, which took hold after the U.S. Federal Reserve last month set out a plan to begin slowing its stimulus.
Draghi said on Monday it remained to be seen whether the unprecedented move would be sufficient.
PRESSING FOR BANKING UNION
Asmussen said the ECB expected to take over its banking regulation role from September or October next year and wanted a fund to refloat or fold struggling banks also to be in place by that time.
"I would not say it's a pre-condition but it's clearly preferable that we have the single resolution mechanism operationally in place when the single supervisory mechanism starts," he said.
Otherwise the system would be half-baked at best.
The European Commission, the EU executive, will outline its blueprint for an agency to close or salvage troubled banks on Wednesday - the second pillar of a so-called banking union, chiefly in the euro zone.
Asmussen expected the Commission to call for a single fund, financed by a levy on the banking industry, adding up to a "tough single resolution authority that will be able to act swiftly".
"I would expect that the ECB will be happy," he said.
However, it is unlikely that Berlin would accept the creation of a new agency in Brussels or elsewhere with powers to overrule its own national authorities on the sensitive issue of whether to save or close an ailing bank.
Berlin would also oppose any fund that requires it to pick up part of the bill if a bank in Spain, for example, ran aground.
Some EU policymakers hope its position will soften after national elections in September but Asmussen was unconvinced.
"Many people are waiting for the elections then hope, expect ... a change in the German position. This is not what I would expect," he said, adding that other countries such as the Netherlands, Finland, Slovakia and Estonia shared its doubts.
"It's easy to hide behind Germany... It's a group of countries, it's not only Germany," he said.
(Writing by Mike Peacock and Paul Carrel; Editing by Hugh Lawson)