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France could propose own Tobin tax next month

PARIS (Reuters) - France could table a financial transaction tax for parliamentary approval as soon as next month, even without the backing of its European partners, a senior official said Sunday.

Sarkozy said Friday that France would not wait for European partners to agree to a pan-European tax which Germany and Italy back but which Britain, keen to shield its huge financial services industry, vigorously rejects.

Presidential adviser Henri Guaino said Friday that France would decide by the end of the month how it would apply the tax and State Secretary Benoist Apparu said Sunday a bill could be put to parliament as soon as February ahead of a recess at the end that month.

"It's not because bankers tell us 'no, we don't want to be taxed' that we are going to listen to them," Apparu said on Radio J.

Paris Europlace, a lobby for the French financial sector, warned Friday the French economy would suffer if only France put in place such a tax, and not the rest of Europe.

However, there is little prospect of an EU-wide tax any time soon with British Prime Minister David Cameron voicing his opposition. He told the BBC Sunday he would veto it unless it was imposed globally.

Sarkozy is due to discuss the tax with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during talks in Berlin Monday, but the German government has already indicated it would prefer the tax to be applied across the 27-nation European Union, which would have to include Britain.

U.S. Nobel laureate James Tobin developed the idea of a tax on currency transactions in the early 1970s to discourage short-term speculation. It gained little traction until France and Germany began pushing the idea in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

By pushing for a rapid introduction of the tax in France, Sarkozy puts the Left, which has long championed the measure, in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to back his initiative shortly before a presidential election on April 22 and May 6.

Manuel Valls, communications director for Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, refused to say whether the party would vote in favor.

"We will wait to see if Sarkozy can convince his European partners because everyone knows that obviously this tax has to be put in place at the European level," he said on Radio J.

However, senior Socialist lawmaker Arnaud Montebourg left no ambiguity and told France 3 television that he would vote for the tax and urge fellow Socialists to do the same.

(Reporting by Thierry Leveque, Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Ben Harding)

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