Damien Hirst's diplomatic bag

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MODERN ART works, such as Damien Hirst's dead sheep, are to be displayed in British embassies around the world in a drive to update the nation's image abroad.

Show-casing works by young British artists was one of a raft of proposals unveiled by the Foreign Office's Panel 2000 to rid Britain of its "stuffy, conservative" reputation.

The panel called for the creation of "one-stop shops" abroad, putting embassies, the British Council and British Tourist Authority offices under one roof.

In a consultation paper published today, it also highlights key countries that need to be targeted by concerted campaigns to change their prejudices of Britain as an old fashioned, unchanging nation.

Germany, Brazil, Poland, China, South Africa, and a part of the United States, have been lined up for the new PR push that would sell the best of British arts, technology, business and sport.

Foreign Office Minister, Derek Fatchett, said that the campaigns could be modelled on a recent drive in Australia to persuade its people that Britons were not "hidebound" by tradition.

The panel called for the refurbishment of key "gateways" such as Heathrow and Gatwick airports and proposed an award for individuals or companies that promoted excellence overseas. Mr Fatchett revealed that the FO was in talks with the Royal Academy, to display "Brit-Art" in ambassador's residences or embassies.