Listening bug found in French Hall in Geneva UN

17th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, Dec 17 (AFP) - The United Nations said Friday that it recently found a bugging device at its European headquarters here, but a UN source hinted that similar devices may have been discovered in the past.

GENEVA, Dec 17 (AFP) - The United Nations said Friday that it recently found a bugging device at its European headquarters here, but a UN source hinted that similar devices may have been discovered in the past.

"I confirm that in the course of the renovation of the Salon Francais (French Hall), UN technical workmen found what was considered to be a sophisticated listening device," said UN spokeswoman in Geneva, Marie Heuze.

"An investigation has failed to determine who could have planted the device," she told a news conference, reading from a statement.

A UN source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was the first time the world body had acknowledged such a discovery after a local Swiss television station broke the news on Thursday evening.

"We made an investigation but it did not identify who had been responsible for installing this device and nobody was able to say when it was planted," the source told AFP.

"The investigation is now closed," the source said.

It is also the first time that such a discovery has been made recently at the UN's sprawling Geneva offices, where top-level meetings are often held, but the source indicated that similar discoveries might have been made in the past.

"That could be," the source said, without revealing further details.

The bugging equipment was found in the French Hall - so-named because it was decorated by the celebrated French artist Jules Leleu in the 1930s - sometime during its renovations between the summer and the start of October.

"This room is not an important room that is why we were surprised at the discovery," said the UN source, who declined to speculate whether the United Nations was worried that other recording equipment may have been installed in more high-profile locations as well.

France's President Jacques Chirac used the bugged room in January when he met his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to talk about famine, Heuze told the Swiss news agency ATS earlier.

"It is not a room that serves to host negotiations, but a prestigious room which has a historic interest and is at the disposal of the heads of delegations," she said.

During a top meeting here in September last year between the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States to discuss Iraq, one of the delegations - believed to be France - again used the room, ATS said.

The French Hall, a fairly large room with a high ceiling and fancy mirror on one wall, is just next door to the Council Chamber, where the top-level meeting took place on the first floor of the UN building.

Swiss TSR television, which broke the story on Thursday, said the French Hall is also used for video conferences with the UN headquarters in New York.

The listening device that was seized was very sophisticated and very difficult to detect, according to an expert consulted by TSR.

Made of components from Russia or eastern Europe, the device was probably three or four years old, said the expert.

The discovery echoed allegations by a former minister in Britain that British spies had bugged the office of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan during the tense weeks leading to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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