U.S. won't escalate banking dispute-Swiss official

WASHINGTON, March 2 Mon Mar 2, 2009 8:35pm GMT

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WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - The Obama administration is not interested in escalating a dispute between the United States and Switzerland over bank secrecy laws, Switzerland's top Justice official said on Monday after meeting with her counterparts from the U.S. Justice Department.

Acting Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Margolis and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder "expressed their willingness to negotiate with Switzerland, to discuss with us, and especially in the UBS case, Mr. Margolis said that he was not interested in having an escalation," Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf of Switzerland told reporters in Washington after the meeting.

UBS UBS.N (UBSN.VX), the world's largest banker to the rich, agreed last month to pay a $780 million fine and disclose the identity of about 300 of its U.S. clients to avert criminal charges that Swiss regulators said would have put the bank's existence at risk. (Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; Editing by Neil Stempleman)