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ECB undecided on length of debt-buying program: Paramo

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By Jonathan Gleave

MADRID (Reuters) - The European Central Bank has not decided how long its unconventional interventions in the secondary market for European government debt will go on, Executive Board Member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo said in an interview on Sunday.

The debt purchases were approved by an overwhelming majority at the ECB's board and were not influenced by governments, Paramo said in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC.

"We will decide what future the program has, but we did not start this program as an answer to political demands at all, we are the most fiercely independent institution in the world," Paramo told ABC.

The ECB reactivated its bond-buying program in August month ago to help hold down surging borrowing costs in Italy and Spain, which had been inflated by financial turbulence and speculation on government debt.

Paramo defended the central bank's record on controlling inflation against critics who suggest it should be focusing more on price stability than buying government debt on secondary markets.

"No central bank has been more scrupulous with price stability than the ECB ... sometimes central banks develop their monetary policy by buying and selling public assets to maintain price stability."

Europe's leaders need reminding of the commitments they made on July 21 to create a new form of EU governance and accelerate reforms, for which strong leaders are required, the ECB board member said.

"The road map is clear; what is needed is to speed up the journey and for that you need very strong leadership."

Turning to Spain's problems of high unemployment Paramo said fiscal discipline and market reform are key to creating jobs in Spain, which has one of the highest levels of unemployment in the euro zone.

"The path is still fiscal discipline and generating confidence in markets and pushing through reforms ... This is the key to creating jobs during an economic slowdown.

Spain's government has overhauled its banking system, forcing weak savings banks to seek private capital or face nationalization, and has also pushed through measures to cut its public debt, and to a lesser extent, reformed its labor market.

"In the labor market they have made reforms like someone cutting salami, although experience tells us that it is better to do them at the same time and once and for all," Paramo said.

Paramo also said Spain's energy market, which he described as too expensive, and its commercial distribution market were sectors ripe for reform.

The ECB board member accepted that banks bear much responsibility for the economic crisis in Spain and elsewhere with cheap mortgages and other lending but said that punishing them could lead to huge unemployment, lower living standards, and a lending squeeze.

"If one just follows the principle that the ones who did wrong should pay (for their mistakes) then the results can be unacceptable," he said.

(Reporting By Jonathan Gleave; Editing by Greg Mahlich)