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U.S., some Swiss banks close to tax probe settlement: Justice Dept

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government expects to announce within days a program that would allow some Swiss banks to avoid or defer prosecution over a long-running probe of offshore tax dodging by Americans, a senior Justice Department official said on Wednesday.

The program would exclude 14 Swiss banks that are already under investigation, the Justice official told reporters on a conference call, which followed reports out of Switzerland that the government there was ready to end the long-running dispute.

"We expect in the next several days to announce a program that would allow certain Swiss banks that want to obtain a resolution with the Department of Justice to come forward and do that," said the senior official, who requested anonymity because the deal has yet to be finalized.

(Reporting By Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Gary Hill)