France is asking unified Germany for reparations from World War II that the former East Germany had balked at paying, an official said Saturday.

The official, confirming a newspaper report, said the move was in line with October unification of the two Germanys, which gives the united country the burden of various debts of the former East Germany.In Paris, an authorized source speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed discussions were under way, but stressed they involved claims from private citizens, not French governmental claims.

Die Welt newspaper quoted reliable sources saying French diplomats had spoken several times with the Foreign Ministry in Bonn about the issue and the French Embassy in Bonn had sent two written notes to the ministry.

A ministry spokesman, who refused to be identified by name, said the issue was a "normal occurrence after unification, about which there must be negotiations." France had previously been in contact with East Germany about reparations, he said.

The Die Welt report said France had put its claim in the currencies of 1945: 37.6 billion French francs and 261 billion reichsmarks, the currency of Nazi Germany. Asked how the claims would be converted into today's money, the spokesman said it was a technical question for negotiators.

In the West German currency reform of 1948, 10 reichsmarks were converted to 1 mark. At that rate, the German currency part of the French claim would be set at 26.1 billion marks, today worth about $17 billion.

The French currency also has been reformed since the war; data on its conversion were not available.

According to one estimate, the final claim could rise over $65 billion.

The spokesman said there would be talks early next year about the issue.

When the two Germanys united in October, the federal government assumed the debts and treaty obligations of East Germany, which unlike West Germany had not paid reparations to the Western allies.