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TOKYO, March 7 (Reuters) - The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday and upgraded its assessment of the economy, as the central bank prepares to install a new governor and two new deputy governors tasked with doing more to end deflation.
BOJ board member Sayuri Shirai proposed bringing forward open-ended purchases of government debt originally scheduled to start next year and combining those purchases with another scheme in which the BOJ buys JGBs to ensure smooth market operations.
The proposal was rejected 8-1.
As widely expected, the central bank maintained its key policy rate in a range of zero to 0.1 percent by a unanimous vote, and held off on expanding asset purchases and its lending programme.
The BOJ also said the economy is bottoming out, an upgrade from last month's assessment.
BOJ board member Ryuzo Miyao proposed continuing the BOJ's policy of keeping interest rates virtually at zero until the central bank's target of 2 percent inflation is in sight. His proposal was also voted down 8-1.
Haruhiko Kuroda, the government's nominee to be the new BOJ governor, told lawmakers in a confirmation hearing this week that the central bank should buy longer-dated government debt to end nearly 20 years of deflation.
Lawmakers are also holding hearings for the government's nominees for the deputy governor posts and will hold a vote some time before the current leadership's term expires on March 19.
Current Governor Masaaki Shirakawa will hold a news conference with his comments expected to come out sometime after 4:15 p.m. (0715 GMT).