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UN Panel Reviews Security Before Algiers Bombing


The head of an independent panel reviewing security at U.N. facilities around the world says members will look at existing U.N. security measures, in addition to reviewing measures in place in the lead-up to the December bombing of a U.N. building in Algeria that killed 17 staff members. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi says he and the five other panel members will look at the new and growing risks and challenges to the safety and security of U.N. staff and facilities around the world.

Panel members will visit several U.N. sites including the New York headquarters, Vienna and Nairobi, as well as other locations he would not name. Brahimi says the panel will consult with member states and U.N. staff, as well as external partners. They will make recommendations to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the end of their two-month long review.

The worldwide security review was prompted by the car bomb attack last December in the Algerian capital that badly damaged a U.N. office and killed 17 staffers. Nearly four years earlier in Baghdad, the U.N. suffered a similar blow, when suicide bombers struck their headquarters killing 22 people.

Brahimi says the United Nations has been put on notice that its blue flag is no longer a form of protection.

"But we have been saying our flag, that used to be a protection is becoming now a target. And I'm not sure we have really absorbed that reality and acted on it," he said.

The Algerian government had earlier expressed reservations about the U.N. conducting an independent investigation, but Brahimi, himself a former Algerian foreign minister, says that was a misunderstanding that has been resolved.

Members of the panel include an Egyptian police colonel, a former Indian police official, a Turkish diplomat, a retired South African army officer and a former U.N. humanitarian official from Sweden. Brahimi says they are still considering whether to add one more member to the panel.

The U.N. Staff Union has expressed its disappointment that they were not consulted on the makeup of the panel. In a letter to the secretary-general, the staff union expressed concerns that the panel's mandate to review security measures worldwide would overshadow its efforts to determine accountability for possible security lapses that led to the Algiers bombing, and called on Mr. Ban not to allow a cover-up of what happened prior to the Algiers attack.

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