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Diplomats get the Twitters

ENOUGH reading between the lines. European diplomats are saying it all in 140 characters.

France is the latest country to turn to social networking site Twitter to tell the world what its diplomats are up to. Top British, Dutch and Portuguese officials are among those tweeting, too.

With a 140-character limit, the tweets are pithy, with none of the nuance or lengthy constructions common in diplomatic texts. Travel warnings figure prominently. "Special travel advice for the Seychelles: info about maritime piracy in the zone," reads one tweet from the French Foreign Ministry, with a link to a detailed Website.

But such a public presence presents new dangers for diplomats.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has been on Twitter for months, but got a slap on the wrist in February for tweeting a picture from the weekly Cabinet meeting, which is supposed to be private.

Diplomatic tweets can have a stinky side, as Britain's Foreign Office demonstrated recently: "Caroline Flint is in the East Midlands to see how the EU is helping to promote traditional English products such as Blue Stilton Cheese," read one tweet.


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