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Sweden to Set Up Virtual Embassy in 'Second Life'

Sweden will set up a virtual presence in the popular online world "Second Life" to spread information about the Scandinavian country and attract more young visitors, officials said Monday.

The government-sanctioned "embassy" will provide curious visitors with information about Swedish culture and history, as well as tips about places to visit and visa rules for tourists, Swedish Institute Director Olle Wastberg said.

The institute operates under the Swedish Foreign Ministry and is charged with promoting Sweden internationally — including in the virtual world, Wastberg said.

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"We're constantly trying to reach new groups of people with information about Sweden," Wastberg said. "This is a very simple and cheap way to reach a large group of younger, educated people who are flooded with information."

"Second Life" has more than 3 million users who create avatars of themselves and move about the virtual world, chatting with others, buying land, building homes and businesses.

Numerous real-world businesses have already set up shop in the virtual space, but Wastberg said Sweden will be the first country with an official presence.

The building is set to open in the coming weeks and will be a replica of the House of Sweden embassy that opened last year in Washington, D.C., allowing visitors to enter and read displays or click on links to informational Web sites.

Institute employees will also be present in the building much of the time to chat with visitors, Wastberg said.

"We think this can create an added interest for Sweden," Wastberg said. "You have to think of ways to attract people."