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The world's richest countries plan to create a worldwide register of paedophiles to help police stamp out child abuse. The proposed international child sexual exploitation database, which would store images of offenders and abused children, is expected to receive the green light at a meeting of G8 justice and home affairs ministers in Sheffield on Thursday.

Different police forces would have access to the database. UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who is due to chair the G8 meeting, said the register would be a "far more powerful tool" than police had now.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It will allow comparison of images in a controlled and secure way, to free up officers' time so they can investigate other images. The G8 two years ago commissioned a report on how we could do this with new technology and how we can work together well. Interpol has done the work... and there has been very good progress. As a means of tackling this kind of vile organised crime, it is very positive."

A UK database run by British police which hosts 800,000 images has enabled police to identify 3,000 victims of abuse, the BBC reports. Pooling intelligence in a larger international database might make it easier to bring more paedophiles to justice and arrest the activities of international gangs. The Home Office estimates the database will cost £2m to set up and, providing governments reach an agreement, could be operational by the end of 2005. Countries outside the G8 would then be invited to join. ®

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