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To close or not: Govt easy

To close or not: Govt easy

F OREIGN Minister Ung Huot says the government "won't mind at all" if the UN

Center for Human Rights (UNCHR) remains open.

"This is not a softening.

We proposed phasing out the office. If the UN secretary-general decides to keep

it, there are no hard feelings," Huot told the Post on April 18.

Briton

Marrack Goulding, the UN's undersecretary general for political affairs, was

appointed this week special envoy to resolve the controversy. He is expected to

spend three days in early May meeting government officials, diplomats and human

rights advocates.

Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali agreed to send

him after news broke of the co-prime ministers' March 15 request to close the

UNCHR when its March 1996 mandate runs out.

Since then, twelve local

non-governmental organisations and human rights groups have written to the UN

and the government urging the center be kept open. Several embassies have also

been advocating it's survival.

"We look forward to Goulding coming and

hope the government's desire to close the center will be reversed," an US

embassy official said.

No deadline for a final decision on the closure

has been announced.

"We believe the human rights situation is

satisfactory... We are not saying you should pack up and go home, but we feel

maybe it's OK now. But if the United Nations feels it is still not, that's their

prerogative," said Huot.

"Let's be clear on that. The government asked

the UN to look at the possibility of phasing out - not closing - the center. If

they feel it has to continue, we will welcome that decision. We were just

raising the issue."

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