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Sarkozy to Andorra: behave or I quit as co-prince

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech about the government's plans to help businesses and individuals through the financial crisis in Saint Quentin north of Paris on March 24, 2009. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy is ready to renounce his title of co-prince of Andorra if it does not change its secretive banking laws, a government minister said on Thursday.

The French president and a Spanish bishop are co-princes of Andorra, a tiny territory in the Pyrenees that is on the OECD blacklist of uncooperative financial centres.

Under pressure from a global campaign to curb tax fraud and increase financial transparency, Andorra said this month it would lift banking secrecy in cases when accords on interchange of tax data apply. It promised a law by November.

Sarkozy has been among several heads of state who have railed against tax havens and banking secrecy since the onset of the credit crunch. He is calling for strong action against tax havens at the G20 summit on April 2 in London.

“He said he would renounce his title of co-prince of Andorra if all countries that practice these tax haven mechanisms do not behave themselves,” Minister for Family Affairs Nadine Morano said on i-Tele, referring to comments made by Sarkozy on Wednesday to legislators from his UMP party.

The principality has been ruled jointly by French heads of state and the bishops of Seu d’Urgell in Spain since the 16th century, although it has built up its own institutions that have taken on executive powers over time.

Andorrans approved a new constitution in 1993 giving them a far greater say in how the country is governed.

Reporting by Laure Bretton, writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Angus MacSwan