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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 17:14 GMT
France to develop Google 'rival'
French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres
The minister said the project was not an "anti-Google" operation
France is spearheading a project to make European literary works available online in an effort to counter growing US cultural dominance worldwide.

The virtual library initiative follows a similar move by US firm Google to make 15m works available on its site.

The head of the French national library, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, recently called for a European "counter-attack" against the Google project.

President Jacques Chirac will discuss the plan with EU ministers in May.

Mr Chirac said in a statement that "a vast movement to make knowledge accessible on the internet around the world is underway."

'Key role'

He held a meeting in Paris with Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Mr Jeanneney on Wednesday to discuss the project.

He asked them to examine ways the collections of the great libraries of France and Europe "could be made more widely and more quickly accessible on the internet".

"Because of France and Europe's exceptional cultural heritage, they must play a key role" in the development of the internet, Mr Chirac said.

Mr Jeanneney warned in January that Google's $200m (110m) project could result in "the crushing domination of the US in shaping the worldview of future generations".

Google announced in December plans to put 15 million volumes online from four prestigious US libraries - Stanford, Michigan, Harvard and New York - and from the UK's Oxford University by 2015.

Mr Donnedieu de Vabres denied the French initiative was an "anti-Google operation".

"It is about a desire for everyone to be able to put forward their talents, heritage, history and culture," he told French newspaper Le Monde. "There's nothing hostile about it."

Google said it welcomed the French project. "We subscribe to all efforts to make information accessible around the world," it told Le Monde.

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