- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

A headquarters revamp
U.N. officials traveled to Washington last week to seek a billion-dollar interest-free loan to fund an ambitious overhaul of the U.N. headquarters, including the construction of a modern office tower.
And they may just get it.
U.S. officials indicated they plan to help out for the whole brick or a substantial piece of it if they can only figure out which budget to bill for it.
"The loan is one thing," said a U.N. official. "But then they have to charge all the lost interest in the first year, and that's $500 [million] to $600 million."
The loan is no small thing, according to U.S. officials, who say that they have not yet settled on the loan's terms or amount. They say they can't take the issue much farther on Capitol Hill until the General Assembly formally adopts a proposal and estimates the cost.
The clock is ticking: Congressional discussions on the 2004 budget appropriations will wind down by mid-January. And the U.N. General Assembly still has a way to go before it agrees on how, exactly, to coordinate a complete renovation of the 39-story Secretariat Building and build an office tower of similar size on adjacent property fronting the East River.
Daily discussions have been going on for months, say U.S. and U.N. officials, who hope to get a definitive proposal from the General Assembly before the December adjournment.
Washington "definitely favors" building the second tower, said Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, who oversees U.N. management and budget issues for the U.S. Mission here."They clearly need the extra space, and it's the most cost-effective option."
Mr. Kennedy said Washington has not yet agreed to an interest-free loan. "When they built the original U.N. building, that was with an interest-free loan," he said last week. "And [the United Nations] paid it back."
U.N. officials say an interest-free loan is the least Washington can do. They note that the governments of Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Lebanon, among others, have not only donated land and buildings for various U.N. offices, but often contribute toward their maintenance as well.
Plans call for the U.N. Development Corporation, a quasi-private real estate concern, to build an office tower on an asphalt park just south of 42nd Street at First Avenue. When that building is complete, the entire U.N. operation will move temporarily.
After a top-to-bottom renovation, most U.N. functions would return to the blue-green tower, and the various agencies, funds and programs would move from commercial space into the new building.

Cambodia's tribunal
A key U.N. committee voted overwhelmingly last week to jump-start efforts to create an international genocide tribunal for Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.
When the resolution is accepted by the General Assembly, likely in early December, the U.N. legal department and Secretary-General Kofi Annan will "resume negotiations without delay, to conclude an agreement with the government of Cambodia" to prosecute those considered responsible for the death of more than a million Cambodians in the mid-1970s.
The Hun Sen government has said it wants international assistance to create a tribunal but has balked at demands that it change its laws to U.N. specifications, and officials from the world body abruptly broke off a five-year negotiation in February.
The United States, among the strongest supporters of the tribunal, has faulted the United Nations for withdrawing from the process without warning. But last week, U.S. envoy Nick Rostow also expressed disappointment with the Cambodians for their stance.

Blix is back
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is back from Baghdad and is scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council this afternoon on his meetings with Iraqi officials.
Workers have been scrubbing down the agency's Baghdad headquarters and installing new computer and communications equipment in preparation for the return of weapons inspectors.
"We are all very much concerned with what's happening there," said China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Yingfan, currently presiding over the Security Council. "We would want to hear everything he can inform us [about] the atmosphere, his direct feelings, whether he does enjoy very effective cooperation during the brief stay there.''
The council is also expected to roll over the humanitarian program that spends Iraq's oil revenues on food, medicines and repair of civic infrastructure.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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