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Biometric passports issued to British diplomats

IDs, with digital facial recognition, to be issued to public in February. Later versions likely to include fingerprints.

The first e-passports featuring biometric identification stored on a chip have been issued to British diplomats.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has been conducting trials of the new passports, which will be issued to the public in February. The e-passports have been issued to diplomats, including the British ambassador to the United States, Sir David Manning.

A trial of the passports took place at the Paris consulate in September, and a second trial took place in Washington, D.C., in late October.

Immigration officials have been notified, so if diplomats try to use them to travel, they should be able to get into the United Kingdom, a Foreign Office representative said. The trial passports will be withdrawn in a few months.

The passports feature "first generation" biometrics facial recognition--a digital version of the photo in the passport. Later versions are likely to include other biometrics, such as fingerprints.

The UK Passport Service has already started enforcing new photo standards during the quiet season to allow full-scale e-passport production and facial recognition.

By August, all new passports will be e-passports, in good time for the U.S. October visa waiver deadline, the Home Office told

Passports with embedded biometrics will form one of the building blocks for the government's controversial identity cards.

Steve Ranger of reported from London.