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Friday, December 19, 1997 Published at 21:09 GMT

World: Europe

Chirac opens renovated Louvre wing
image: [ President Chirac spent more than an hour at the museum ]
President Chirac spent more than an hour at the museum

The French President Jacques Chirac opened a renovated wing at the Louvre museum in Paris on Friday, which extends exhibition space to accommodate treasures never shown there before.

The wing, previously unused, adds around 10,000 square metres of space to the museum, now renamed the Grand Louvre.

[ image: Most of the space has been devoted to Egyptian treasures]
Most of the space has been devoted to Egyptian treasures
The new space is largely devoted to Egyptian treasures, confirming France's record as a country with close cultural and historical links with Egypt and its rich past.

It almost completes the modernisation and expansion of the museum which began 16 years ago.

[ image: The renovation is part of a 16-year programme]
The renovation is part of a 16-year programme
President Chirac spent more than an hour at the Louvre, admiring the 30 new galleries and the spectacular display of Egyptian art now open to public view.

The museum is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions and was once home to France's kings.

The complex includes a controversial giant glass pyramid which serves as an entrance, underground shops, restaurants and a car park.

[ image: France and Egypt have close cultural ties]
France and Egypt have close cultural ties
Former president Francois Mitterrand began the work some 15 years ago.

The wing inaugurated by Chirac houses some 5,000 pieces of Egyptian antiquities as well as galleries displaying 3,600 Greek, Etruscan and Roman treasures never before exhibited by the museum.

It also houses Italian paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.

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