UPDATE 1-French min: Greece needs to improve public finances

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PARIS, Dec 9 (Reuters) - France does not think Greece will go bankrupt but Athens needs to make a big effort to get its public finances back in order, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Wednesday.

“I do not think that Greece can go bankrupt,” she said on RMC radio, but said the situation needed to improve, adding that her Greek counterpart would visit France next Tuesday to discuss public finances.

“We (European finance ministers) have asked our Greek colleague to put a real, efficient plan to rebalance and rework public finances. We all expect him to do it, he has made commitments with us and of course he has to keep them.”

She also said that French debt was popular in financial markets but France would continue to take care to ensure that there was not threat to its credibility.

“By comparison to our partners we are very well rated,” Lagarde said. “So France’s signature is good. The market likes our paper and we are extremely determined to be very careful to the way we issue.”

Asked about the potential size of a new loan that President Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to fund investment projects, Lagarde said: “It must be a figure which does not raise questions about the quality of France’s debt signature.”

Sarkozy will announce the size of the loan, which will be raised on financial markets, on Monday. The panel which put together recommendations on the loan told Sarkozy it should be 35 billion euros, including 22 billion euros of new borrowings. (Reporting by Anna Willard and James Mackenzie, editing by Mike Peacock)