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PRETORIA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - South Africa's central bank left its benchmark repo rate on hold at 6.5 percent on Thursday, in a tight call, with the bank's governor striking a more hawkish note than at the last rate meeting in July.
The rate decision by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) was closely watched after emerging market peers Turkey and Russia raised their main lending rates recently.
Four members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted for no change in rates and three voted for a 25 basis points increase.
The SARB had to weigh data showing that the economy entered recession in the second quarter against risks to its inflation forecasts from the rand, which has lost more than 6 percent since the bank's last rate meeting in July.
A rate hike would have dealt a further blow to South Africa's sputtering economy, which President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to revive after a decade of stagnation.
"The committee continues to be of the view that current challenges facing the economy are primarily structural in nature and cannot be solved by monetary policy alone," SARB Governor Lesetja Kganyago told a news conference in Pretoria.
Kganyago said the inflation outlook had deteriorated due to the weaker rand and high oil prices.
"At current levels, the SARB's model assess the rand to be undervalued," he added.
The rand was barely changed after Thursday's decision, as all bar one of the 26 economists surveyed by Reuters had predicted that the SARB would leave the repo rate unchanged. (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Mfuneko Toyana and Nomvelo Chalumbira Writing by Alexander Winning Editing by James Macharia)