PARIS, NOV. 26 -- Pressured by accusations of shady finances, France's major political party leaders vowed today to work for new laws limiting campaign expenditures and subjecting political fund-raising to increased public scutiny.

Party heads declared their readiness to reform in connection with an unusual round table called by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac. Chirac acted in response to a spreading perception that under-the-table financing of French political parties and candidates has grown considerably in recent years to keep pace with rising costs of running for office.

Requirements for an accounting of political funds would mark a departure in France. Parties and politicians here traditionally have kept sources of their financial backing secret and many French citizens have long assumed that underhanded fund-raising is part of the system.

Political figures predicted laws on personal financial disclosure and campaign expenditures may be passed before next spring's presidential elections. But they judged as highly remote the possibility that party finances, the area where most abuse occurs, would be subjected to public controls anytime soon.

Proposals to reform party finances, including suggestions for public funding or open accounting, have languished in parliament over the years. Concern over the issue has increased in recent months, however, particularly in the atmosphere of public distrust created by a series of reported political scandals.

Chirac convened today's meeting after President Francois Mitterrand called for financial reforms as part of his denial of a declassified Defense Ministry report saying his Socialist Party may have received kickbacks on illegal sales of artillery shells to Iran when Socialists ran the government in 1984 and 1985.

Some members of Chirac's government coalition charged Mitterrand appealed for financial reforms only to divert attention from charges of responsibility in the Iranian arms sales. Nevertheless, Chirac felt obliged to take up the challenge and called in leaders of his own Rally for the Republic; its conservative coalition partner, the Union for French Democracy; the Socialist Party; the Communist Party and the rightist National Front.

Jacques Toubon, leader of the neo-Gaullist Rally for the Republic, announced that his party is seeking "transparency, limits on expenditures and legalization of resources." He said the party wants to quickly adopt and impose "dispositions that can concern the presidential election: declaration of {personal} . . . fortunes, ceiling and controls on expenditures, budget contributions and private donations."

The Communist leader, Georges Marchais, reported "declarations of good intentions," and added, "But when you get down to concrete issues, things become more difficult."

A communique issued by Chirac's office said another meeting will be held within two weeks on what can be done. It said nothing about what Chirac thinks should be done.

Jean-Pierre Chevenement, industry and education minister in the former Socialist government and still a member of parliament and mayor of the eastern city of Belfort, said yesterday the subject is delicate because city hall contracts and government purchases are widely used in France to raise party funds.

A frequent method at the local level, he explained in a conversation with U.S. correspondents, is to have a would-be contractor order a fictitious study from a friend of the mayor's party, usually pegged to cost a small percentage of the contract in view. Payment for the study then is divided up, with one third to the local party apparatus, one third to the national party coffers and one third to the study's authors, he said.

The Socialist and Communist parties, which have spent most of recent years in the opposition but control many city halls, have principally used this method, Chevenement said. Conservative parties, which have run the national government most of the time, have instead raised money by having intermediaries linked to the party take part of the commissions on government contracts recorded as payments to go-betweens, he said.

A former minister recalled that when he asked why the government was paying commissions on oil purchases, for which intermediaries seemed unnecessary, he received only vague answers from his own subordinates and concluded it was better not to probe further.

Le Canard Enchaine, a satirical and investigative weekly newspaper, reported it inadvertently discovered another frequent device for raising political funds: false billing. According to the paper, a caller to the Editions Marechal company, not realizing that was the Canard Enchaine's corporate name, suggested the company could help the prime minister by buying advertising space in a magazine put out by a local branch of Chirac's party.

Canard Enchaine reporters, pretending to go along, said they offered 10,000 francs, or $1,800, and got a receipt for 10,000 francs worth of advertising in the party magazine, Horizon 88, along with assurances it would never really appear. After the paper published an account of what happened, along with a copy of the receipt, party officials complained they were victims of "provocation."