Our Man In Paris: Diplomacy goes out the window

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The Independent Culture
THE FRENCH diplomatic service is to vacate the Quai d'Orsay, its ornate and legendary building beside the Seine. The diplomats' new home is the subject of an undiplomatic quarrel between Prime Minister Jean- Pierre Raffarin and Paris mayor Betrand Delanoe.

Raffarin wants to shift the foreign ministry by 2010 into a new building on the site of the ageing Saint-Vincent-de-Paul maternity hospital in the 14th arrondissement, behind Montparnasse. The Quai d'Orsay, home of French diplomacy since 1855, has become too cramped. Only the gilded public rooms fronting the river will be retained for receptions. Mayor Delanoe protests that he needs the Saint-Vincent site for a hospital for the handicapped. He suggests that a fine new foreign ministry could be built on a railway goods yard in the gritty, unloved northern fringes of the 18th arrondissement, close to the largest Paris flea-market. French diplomats are, for some reason, reluctant to be shunted into a siding, far from official and tourist Paris.

Who is more powerful, the French PM or the mayor of Paris? The question may be decided in court.