Bug is discovered at UN offices in Geneva

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The United Nations has found a sophisticated listening device planted in Geneva offices used by leaders for confidential meetings in September last year, before the war in Iraq. Workers found the bug while carrying out renovations at the Salon Francais.

The United Nations has found a sophisticated listening device planted in Geneva offices used by leaders for confidential meetings in September last year, before the war in Iraq. Workers found the bug while carrying out renovations at the Salon Francais.

Last March, Clare Short, the former cabinet minister, had revealed that British intelligence services were spying on the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, before the invasion.

A UN spokeswoman, Marie Heuze, said the organisation did not know when the bug had been planted, adding: "An investigation has failed to determine who could have planted the device."

Norman Bolton, a security consultant at C2I, and former operations expert at Scotland Yard, who was shown pictures of the find, said it could have been made within the past two years and was still technologically up to date. "It must be assumed that the UN is rife with these kind of devices," he said. "It could be of British origin ... but the people who are deploying these are most often redundant East European spies, who could be working for anyone."

The art deco room adjoins a main conference hall, which was used for a meeting of the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other foreign ministers of permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The salon is also is the venue for a weekly teleconference between Mr Annan and the head of the Geneva office, Sergei Ordzhonikidze. Security experts have criticised procedures at the UN, saying bugging devices should have been picked up in routine sweeps.

Mr Bolton said: "The embarrassment is ridiculous. They should be sweeping before meetings and, with the right equipment, devices like this would be picked up whether they are switched on or not."

A UN security source said their offices were infested with listening devices and they did not have the resources to find them. "It's like Swiss cheese," he told Reuters. "If we had the technical means and staff for thorough searches, I'm certain we would find one microphone after another. The UN in New York and Vienna are the same."

Other security sources questioned whether major secrets could have been overheard because senior government officials have security that includes electromagnetic waves to thwart eavesdropping systems. "There's not much they could get here," one security official said, adding that most of the discussions are in public.

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