* Magazine publishes tape of central bank chief Marek Belka
* Says Belka wanted minister out in return for helping gov't
* Central bank says Belka's remarks taken out of context
* It denies Belka exceeded his authority
* Belka apologises for expletives used in tape
(Adds Belka interview. Attention: strong language in paragraph
By Marcin Goclowski and Marcin Goettig
WARSAW, June 15 Poland's central bank said on
Sunday an audio recording of Governor Marek Belka using
expletives about colleagues and discussing deals with the
government was taken out of context, and that he had not stepped
beyond the bounds of his authority.
The Wprost news magazine on Saturday released a recording of
a conversation in a restaurant last year in which, it said,
Belka told a minister he would be willing to help the government
out of its economic troubles if the finance minister was fired.
Some politicians have demanded the resignation of Belka, a
political heavyweight who is generally seen as a safe pair of
hands by investors with assets in Poland, the European Union's
In the central bank's first public comment since the tape
emerged about 24 hours earlier, it issued a statement denying
Belka broke the rules that stipulate the bank must be
independent from the government.
"Governor Belka gave a signal in this statement that he does
not intend to resign," said Rafal Benecki, chief economist with
ING Bank Slaski. "It seems to me there will be no market
reaction, or it will be very insignificant."
But several economists and sources close to the government
said the tape - especially derogatory remarks Belka made about
the bank's rate-setting council - could make it harder to
conduct monetary policy.
Elzbieta Chojna-Duch, one of the members of the council,
told Reuters it was a "difficult situation", and said it was
likely Belka would give an explanation at the council's next
scheduled sitting, on Tuesday. Belka is chair of the council.
In its statement, the bank said Belka expressed deep regret
for the language he used in the conversation, with Interior
Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz. It said he "apologises to all
who have been affected and offended."
But the bank denied Belka, 62, a former prime minister and
finance minister, had done anything more serious.
It said Belka had met Sienkiewicz last year and the
conversation touched on then finance minister, Jacek Rostowski.
"In the private part of conversation Marek Belka informed
Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz about the lack of cooperation from the
minister of finance," the bank said.
"From the nearly two-hour conversation, only a few minutes
of out-of-context passages were published that talk about the
stability of the financial system."
This was manipulated to try to present the remarks as
exceeding the powers of the bank's governor, "which never
happened", the statement said.
According to extracts of the recording posted on the
Internet and a transcript released by the magazine, the man
identified by the magazine as Sienkiewicz sets out a possible
future scenario in which the government could not meet its
financial commitments and faces election defeat.
He refers in vague terms to monetary policy action carried
out elsewhere in Europe - an apparent reference to central bank
"Is that precisely the moment for launching this sort of
solution, or not?" Sienkiewicz asks Belka.
The person identified by the magazine as Belka replies: "My
condition would be the removal of the finance minister."
He said the replacement should be a "non-political,
technical finance minister who will get full support from the
The finance minister at the time, Jacek Rostowski, was
removed last November as part of a cabinet reshuffle. He was
replaced by Mateusz Szczurek, an economist.
Rostowski's office said on Sunday he would not comment until
he had more details. Sienkiewicz's office did not reply to calls
Belka, in an interview with Polish radio station RMF FM,
published on its Internet site late on Sunday, said the fact
that Rostowski later lost his job was just a coincidence.
His meeting with the interior minister was, Belka was quoted
as saying, "a conversation between two people who are concerned
about the various manifestations of life in Poland. ... Of
course there was no deal, no contract." He repeated his apology
for his crude language.
In the recording, the discussion in the restaurant,
interspersed by the sound of plates clanking, touches on the
possibility the rate-setting council would block the bank
helping the government.
"Of course, we have this fucking Monetary Policy Council,"
says the man in the recording, who sounds like Belka. "But we
are able to play with it."
The recording also has Belka making disparaging personal
remarks about one of the council members, Jerzy Hausner.
Hausner told Reuters on Sunday he had no comment.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said he will comment on the
tape on Monday at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT).
An economist with a major bank, who did not want to be
identified, said "it is hard to imagine that Belka would still
be able to work together with the MPC".
The central bank is in the process of deciding whether to
cut rates, which would mean dropping its policy of keeping them
flat until the fourth quarter.
(Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Pawel Sobczak and
Adrian Krajewski; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Robin