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France picks gay diplomat for Unesco role after Vatican 'snub'

France has named diplomat Laurent Stefanini to a top Unesco post after wrangling with the Vatican AFP photo/ Alain Jocard

France appointed a gay man as its representative to Unesco on Wednesday. The move suggests the country has abandoned its attempts to name the man as its ambassador to the Holy See after the Vatican long delayed confirming the post.

The nomination of Laurent Stefanini, President Francois Hollande's head of protocol, to the job at the United Nation's Paris-based educational, cultural and scientific body ends a year of diplomatic wrangling.

Hollande proposed Stefanini for the Vatican position in January 2015. Then, when church officials did not confirm the posting, French and Italian media attributed the delay to Stefanini’s sexuality. 

French Catholic paper La Croix said last year the Vatican considered it a "provocation" that Stefanini had been put forward and some reports said it was the Vatican's revenge for Hollande's Socialist government legalising same-sex marriage in 2013.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said in April last year that Stefanini remained "France's choice".

A statement released after the meeting of the French cabinet on Wednesday did not give the new name put forward by Paris for the Vatican position.

Stefanini, 56, worked on Vatican affairs while working in a lower-ranking diplomatic role between 2001 and 2005. He became head of presidential protocol in 2010 under then-president Nicolas Sarkozy and retained the role when Hollande came to power two years later.

- with AFP