For the first time in its history, Britain's secret service is advertising in the newspapers.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6, placed adverts in a number of papers on Thursday for "people we can depend on".

Under a montage of photographs of exotic locations, an aeroplane and a balaclava-clad man holding a machine gun, the ad read: "We operate around the world to make this country safer and more prosperous."

As traditional in the world of espionage, little was given away: the recruitment called for officers, analysts and linguists, but kept the details out of sight.

Website

"Staff who join SIS can look forward to ... a stimulating and rewarding career which, like Bond's, will be in the service of their country"

MI6 website

The move to advertise follows the launch last year of MI6's own website, and is seen as an effort to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds.

Traditionally,the foreign affairs spy branch (different from the domestic intellegence affairs counter-part, MI5) recruited on an informal basis, usually through Britain's elite fee-paying schools and universities.

On its website, MI6 comes out of the shadows but tells potential recruits they will not become the next Bond  - the dashing, fictional British secret agent of Hollywood fame.

"Nevertheless, staff who join SIS can look forward to ... a stimulating and rewarding career which, like Bond's, will be in the service of their country," it says.