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French diplomat to head EU intelligence agency

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(BRUSSELS) - French diplomat Patrice Bergamini will head the European Union's intelligence agency, replacing Britain's William Shapcott atop an office observers see as a potential "European CIA," a diplomat said Tuesday.

Bergamini, 40, a specialist in defence and security matters, works in the cabinet of EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton, who named him to head the Joint Situation Centre, said the diplomat who requested anonymity.

The agency, known as SitCen, had been headed by Shapcott since it was launched in 2001.

The agency is now part of the European External Action Service, the 27-nation bloc's diplomatic corps headed by Ashton which was formally launched on Monday.

SitCen began as a platform for several EU members, including Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, to exchange sensitive information.

Its activities expanded to include terrorism analysis in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The pro-transparency group Open Europe, a non-governmental organisation, has described the agency as the seed of Europe's agency modelled after the United States' CIA.

But SitCen has a staff of only 100 people.

It does not collect information, a task still in the hands of national intelligence services. Its mission mainly consists of analysis of sensitive information that EU member states are willing to share.

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