Foreign diplomats turning to Twitter

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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 doing it, 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 Web site with more detail.

The tweets reveal little of what's going on at closed-door diplomatic talks in world capitals. Most are links to speeches and statements.

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."

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