(Adds comment from central bank statement)
BOGOTA, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank held its benchmark interest rate steady for the first time in seven months as expected on Friday, as policymakers pause to gauge how much inflation is slowing and whether the economy needs more support.
In a five-to-two decision, the board voted to keep the lending rate at 5.25 percent.
Policymakers have been grappling for over two years with the twin pressures of a weak economy, caused by the global drop in oil prices, and inflation that at one point last year was more than double the bank's 2 to 4 percent target range.
Twelve-month inflation fell to 3.87 percent last month.
"Reaching an expansionist monetary policy stance will depend on inflation projections, output gap and current account deficit," the central bank said in a statement after announcing the decision.
"New economic activity figures suggest that economic growth in the third quarter would be low, but higher than in the first half of the year. Given this, higher growth is projected for the second half of the year, in line with expectations."
While making its decision, the bank considered the risk economic growth could weaken beyond that "compatible" with the decline in oil prices. The board also discussed uncertainty over how long it would take for inflation to come down to within the target range, and how close the interest rate is to neutral.
In a recent Reuters poll, 15 of the 18 analysts surveyed projected the bank would maintain the lending rate at 5.25 percent, while the remaining three forecast a final cut this year to 5 percent.
The risk of a resurgence in inflation -- which would put prices above the target range -- is likely to tip the balance toward holding the rate steady for the remainder of the year even as the economy remains weak, analysts said.
"The evolution of food prices in September will not allow for another rate cut this year, though aggregate demand remains depressed," said Wilson Tovar, economist at Bogota-based brokerage Acciones y Valores.
The government forecasts GDP growth of 2 percent for 2017 and 3 percent for 2018.
Analysts expect cuts to resume next year, bringing the rate to 4.50 percent. The bank has trimmed 225 basis points since December. (Reporting by Bogota newsroom; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Sandra Maler)