* Talks underway with Italy to find solution, Swiss finance
* Americans "not easy partners" in long-running dispute, she
GENEVA Jan 12 Switzerland is discussing a
tax deal with Italy and is still pressing ahead with difficult
talks with the United States on banking secrecy, Swiss President
and Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said on Thursday.
Switzerland's long tradition of banking secrecy has allowed
rich foreigners to park savings out of sight of their own tax
authorities for decades and, for many foreigners, made Swiss
bank accounts a byword for dodging taxes.
But foreign governments, led by the United States, are
forcing tax havens to reveal their secrets, emboldened by
efforts to root out suspected terrorist funding and by a need to
boost revenues depleted by the global economic crisis.
Switzerland has already agreed to allow tax evasion
investigations with countries including the United States and
Germany, and struck deals with Germany and Britain to enable
them to claw taxes back from their nationals.
Widmer-Schlumpf said a similar deal had been discussed with
Italy, although the new Italian government under Prime Minister
Mario Monti has more pressing concerns and it might not happen
"We had good contacts with (former Economy Minister Giulio)
Tremonti before the change of government. We agreed we have to
find a solution similar to the solution with Germany and
Britain," she told a news conference in Geneva.
"Now the situation has changed a bit and I have to start
again with the finance minister, who is now prime minister, Mr.
Monti. He also agrees to continue discussions."
The deals with Germany and Britain need ratification and are
under threat from the European Commission, which says they
infringe EU rules and may be too soft on tax evasion.
There is also a threat to the German deal from within
Germany's parliament, where some politicians complain
tax-evaders could get off lightly.
The head of the Swiss private bankers' association, Nicolas
Pictet, said in a magazine interview published on Thursday that
he did not underestimate the risk of such a challenge.
"If the Bundesrat rejects the agreement, we might worry that
the British will question the point of being the only ones to
ratify it," he told the weekly magazine L'Hebdo.
Widmer-Schlumpf said she remained convinced a solution would
be found with Germany and Britain, although she said it was not
Switzerland's problem, since the other two countries had always
maintained the deals were sound in European Union law.
"We will see in a few weeks or months," she said.
Switzerland is also trying to do a deal with Washington to
end a long-running dispute over Americans who hold Swiss bank
accounts, and Widmer-Schlumpf said it would be better to find a
way to settle things than to fight for years.
"With the United States the situation is not so easy, these
are not easy partners, we know that. But in any case they are
(Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Ruth