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Kerry Says ‘Fair’ Solution Needed for BNP Paribas Case

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said a fair solution should be found to the probe into alleged sanctions violations by BNP Paribas SA that has stoked tensions between France and the U.S.

“We obviously want whatever it is to be fair and to reflect an appropriateness to whatever it is that is alleged to have taken place,” Kerry told reporters in Beirut today, in response to a question. “I’m not sure that it belongs in our comments publicly between the two countries. But I’m confident that it’s something that we can work through and deal with.”

U.S. authorities are seeking as much as $10 billion to settle allegations that BNP Paribas transferred funds for clients in violation of sanctions against countries including Sudan and Iran, a person with knowledge of the probe has said. Prosecutors are also pressuring the bank to plead guilty and its dollar-clearing business may also be temporarily suspended.

French President Francois Hollande said he will press Barack Obama on the matter when his U.S. counterpart visits France this week.

“I don’t know if he wants to talk about it, but I will talk about it,” Hollande told reporters today.

Obama and Hollande are scheduled to meet today in Brussels at a gathering of Group of Seven leaders. Hollande said he will save the BNP discussion for his bilateral dinner with the U.S. president tomorrow in a Paris restaurant.

Hollande’s pledge to raise the issue with Obama signals his administration’s growing frustration. The French president wrote to Obama in early April complaining about the penalties the bank might face. Since then, potential fines have escalated to levels Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described yesterday as unreasonable.

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