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“Leap seconds are an inconvenience to the telecommunications people, but there are many other users of time who should be considered,” said Ken Seidelmann, a research professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and former director of astrometry at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Killing off the leap second would also result in atomic clocks slowly outrunning the solar day by a rate of about 90 seconds a century. After many thousands of years, atomic clocks would say it’s midday when outside the sun has yet to rise.

“This is replacing a small problem with a big problem further down the line,” said Daniel Gambis, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory and the man who alerted timekeepers around the world to the next leap second, due on June 30.

Arias said solutions could be found for such problems, but conceded that severing the link between the proposed new standard time _ as measured by atomic clocks _ and the solar time people are accustomed to might seem troubling to many.

Still, the time for change has come, she argued.

Unless a last minute consensus is reached, delegates at the ITU meeting in Geneva are expected to vote on the issue Thursday or Friday.