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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 02:22 GMT 03:22 UK
NYC to end diplomatic parking immunity
Traffic in New York City
Manhattan is notoriously short of parking space
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that from Friday the city will start towing away diplomatic cars that are parked illegally.


Those cars that are left in spots that are not permitted are hurting the safety of people in this city

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

This will not apply to those with United Nations registered plates.

The city has been fighting a long battle to try to force consuls in New York to pay their fines, which total more than $21m.

But the US State Department is trying to stop the city from acting on its threat.

Budget deficit

"We start towing on Friday," Mr Bloomberg said.

"Those cars that are left illegally in spots that are not permitted are hurting the safety of people in this city," he added.

NY sign
And that means YOU
The BBC's Michael Fox in New York says the move is also designed to help bridge the city's $5b projected budget deficit.

Shortage of parking spaces and the aura of immunity created by diplomatic licence plates have led some diplomats to rack up huge numbers of parking fines.

Egypt is the worst offender, owing $1.6m for more than 15,000 tickets.

Other leading violators cited by the city include Kuwait, Nigeria, Indonesia, Morocco, Brazil, Greece, Pakistan and China.

Retaliation

But the US State Department is worried that towing away diplomatic cars could lead to reprisals against their diplomats overseas.

The UN building illuminated for the millennium
UN diplomats still enjoy immunity
An unnamed official told Reuters news agency:

"The thought of a US diplomatic courier vehicle moving through the streets of, say, Xanadu, carrying classified material and having that vehicle seized by a foreign government - I don't find that being in the best interest of the United States of America."

The State Department has tried to negotiate a compromise based on the model used in Washington.

It suggests increasing the number of parking spots and then withdraw diplomatic registration from cars that keep breaking the law.

"The city has not at this point accepted that offer," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.

See also:

28 Oct 98 | e-cyclopedia
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