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French President Francois Mitterrand, bowing to criticism, has agreed to scale down plans to build a giant new national library in the center of Paris.

Mitterrand said in a letter to Culture Minister Jack Lang he had decided changes should be made to architect Dominique Perrault's design after studying an independent report on the $1.35 billion project.The building would be made more cost-effective and compact by reducing the height of glass towers to be situated at each of its four corners, Mitterrand said.

The change should make the library, which will rely on air conditioning to maintain the best temperature for preserving books, less expensive to run and easier to use.

The Socialist president commissioned the report from the independent Higher Council of Libraries after a long-running campaign of criticism by architects, academics, librarians and right-wingers opposed to Perrault's plan.

Opponents said the design - which resembles an upside-down table with four legs pointing in the air - had more to do with national prestige than the practical task of storing up to 18 million volumes, many of them in fragile condition.