Paris public toilets soon become chargeless

The land of "liberte, egalite, fraternite" is hoping to boast another civil liberty starting next week: the right to urinate for free. On Feb. 1, Paris plans to begin converting its more than 200 self-sanitizing public toilets to work for free, mayoral aide Pierre Serne said Thursday. They currently cost 40 euro cents (about 50 U.S. cents).

Long sought by homeless advocates, the initiative is expected to relieve the chronic problem of finding toilets in the French capital. The measure "is to help everyone," said Serne, adding that the comfort of tourists was not the main concern. "Tourists don't have a problem paying ... For the homeless, this is their only chance to use a toilet during the day."

The measure enjoys widespread support but still needs official approval at a city council meeting Monday, Serne said. In a plan worked out with Decaux, the company that manages the self-sanitizing toilets, the city government will pay 17 euro cents (20 U.S. cents) in operating costs for every visitor above the 2.4 million tallied in 2005.

Paris expects to recuperate most of the money spent on the toilets, called "sanisettes," by saving on street cleaning, Serne said. France topped worldwide tourist destinations in 2005, with 75 million visitors, the tourism minister announced Wednesday, reports the AP. N.U.

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