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U.N: Bugging device found at Geneva HQ
Updated: 2004-12-17 13:32

The United Nations said on Thursday a secret listening device had been found in a posh meeting room of its European headquarters in Geneva.

The room was used by ministers from major powers last year during private talks on Iraq following the U.S. invasion and occupation.

Marie Heuze, chief U.N. spokeswoman in Geneva, confirmed the report by French-language Swiss Television which said the sophisticated bugging device had been uncovered in recent months in the Salon Francais of the Palais des Nations, formerly the League of Nations.

"I confirm that U.N. workmen found a listening device. An inquiry was unable to determine when the device was planted or by whom," she told Reuters.

Swiss Television said the device was found in wooden panels in the room, but Heuze declined to give any details.

The foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France met at the United Nations in Geneva in September 2003 for talks on Iraq.

One delegation, probably France's, is believed to have used the Salon Francais -- also used last January during talks on global hunger organized by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and French President Jacques Chirac.

"It is not a negotiating room but a prestigious room of historical interest which is put at the disposal of heads of delegations," Heuze said.

The elegant Salon Francais, which has art deco furniture from the 1930s, is adjacent the room where the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament holds weekly negotiations.

A Geneva-based security expert who saw photos of the device told the television the system appeared to be of Russian or Eastern European origin. Its size indicated it was three or four years old, before such circuits were miniaturised, he said.

Separately, Jacques Baud, a Berne-based security expert and author of an encyclopedia on intelligence services, said: "It is the first time since the Cold War that there has been material proof of a system being planted in the United Nations."

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