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French minister criticizes United States over BNP Paribas probe

PARIS (Reuters) - A junior minister in French President Francois Hollande's government criticized a U.S. criminal probe against BNP Paribas On Sunday, saying France would not allow itself to be pushed around by its ally.

Fears that a looming U.S. fine on BNP Paribas over allegations it evaded U.S. sanctions against Iran and other countries for years hit France's biggest bank on Friday, driving its shares sharply lower.

"The United States cannot act in a unilateral way ... The United States cannot treat its allies like this and subordinate them to its geostrategic interests," Jean-Marie Le Guen told BFM TV on Sunday.

Le Guen is junior minister in charge of the government's relationship with parliament and as such would not have any direct role in any government initiative over the BNP Paribas case.

France's government had said little about the issue since it surfaced early this year, but Le Guen said this could not be dealt with via "megaphone diplomacy".

The French government is being very active over the matter, he said without giving any details. "There is a lot of work going on," he said, adding that he was distinguishing, in the BNP Paribas probe, "between what are faults and what was being exaggerated."

The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that the U.S. Justice Department wanted $10 billion from the bank - double the amount previously reported and more than 20 percent more than BNP's 2013 pretax income.

French central bank governor Christian Noyer had said last month that French regulators had found no evidence that French or United Nations rules had been broken.

"I don't have the impression we will let ourselves be pushed around," Le Guen said.

Hollande will meet U.S. President Barack Obama at a G7 summit in Brussels on Thursday.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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