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U.N. to Investigate Security at its Global Compounds

01/24/2008 -The United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon announced yesterday that an independent panel will investigate the world body's security posture at its international offices.

The announcement came at a memorial service in Geneva, Switzerland, for the victims of two suicide bombings that rocked the U.N.'s Algiers offices last month. Seventeen U.N. employees and 20 others perished when twin suicide truck bombs blew up outside the compound. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

At the ceremony, Ban took an indirect swipe at the government of Algeria, telling mourners that it is the responsibility of the host country to provide adequate security to U.N. staff and premises—something a top U.N. official said the Algerian government was derelict in doing.

According to the Agence France Presse:

Last week the head of the UN development agency, Kemal Dervis, said that the Algerian government had ignored earlier UN requests to tighten security around its buildings prior to the attack.

"The UN resident security officer did ask the (Algerian) government for particular security measures, including blocking off the streets (outside the UN offices)" the UNDP chief said. "The government did not respond to that. That we know as a fact."

Dervis said the formal request to block off the streets outside the UN offices was made soon after two suicide car bomb attacks rocked the Algerian capital, including the prime minister's office, last April - eight months before the UN attack.

The Associated Pressreports that the Algerian government has criticized the U.N.'s independent investigation into the December attacks, saying it is already conducting its own investigation.

During his announcement, Ban summed up the difficult task the independent panel will face:

"We will never be able to work completely free of threats to our safety, and we must never become a fortress, walled off from those we are there to support .... But we will need to learn to balance our mission on behalf of other people with the need to protect our own."

For more on how to strengthen security at diplomatic and humanitarian locations worldwide while remaining welcoming to visitors, see "Guarded Diplomacy," by Andrew Turk, CPP, in theJanuary issue of Security Management on newstands now.