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UN renovation manager resigns, citing frustration

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 (Reuters) The manager of a costly and much-delayed plan to renovate the United Nations' New York headquarters today announced that he was resigning in frustration after less than a year in the job.

New York real estate veteran Louis Frederick Reuter, 62, is executive director of the UN Capital Master Plan and has privately complained of US interference in his work as well as other problems that have prevented the plan from going forward as quickly as he liked, associates said.

He told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan he would leave on June 30.

The 54-year-old UN headquarters compound, one of New York's most popular tourist attractions, is riddled with asbestos and lacks fire detectors, a sprinkler system and other emergency safety devices.

The United Nations has been working for six years on a renovation plan for its main office tower, a Manhattan landmark and architectural icon, but construction has yet to begin.

Reuter said in a statement that a number of factors were behind his decision ''including the lack of clear support by many major stakeholders and difficulties of working within U.N.

practice as it applies to a large building project.'' Associates said his mention of insufficient support referred primarily to Washington.

US Ambassador John Bolton expressed disappointment at Reuter's decision ''at this critical point'' and said Washington supported ''the idea of the renovation to the building.'' ''We have heard he will be moving on to a very lucrative possibility in the private sector, which is certainly something I can understand,'' Bolton added.

But Reuter denied his move stemmed from accepting a new position, ''although I am naturally interested in moving funded and approved projects into the ground.'' The latest version of the UN renovation plan, estimated at 1.2 billion dollars to 1.6 billion dollars or more, has been scaled back and stretched out to avoid moving the whole organisation into temporary headquarters while the work is carried out.

From the start, the project has been beset by concerns over how to pay for it. Cost estimates have soared, in part due to the repeated delays.

Because Washington pays about a quarter of the regular UN budget, the US share could run to 400 million dollars or more in the event of cost overruns.

The UN General Assembly's budget committee last month approved initial spending of about 100 million dollars for various design and pre-construction work.

It acted over the objection of Bolton, who had held up the money for weeks while trying to resolve some of Washington's concerns before the work began.

Reuter had publicly grumbled in mid-April that each day of delay increased UN costs by 225,000 dollars.

Reuters VJ VP0055

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